Syl Sylvain, a punk guitar icon best known for his work with the New York Dolls, has died at the age of 69. He died on Wednesday from cancer, according to a Facebook post by his wife.
“As most of you know, Sylvain battled cancer for the past two and 1/2 years,” wrote Wendy Mizrahi, in a statement on his Facebook page.
“Though he fought it valiantly, yesterday he passed away from this disease. While we grieve his loss, we know that he is finally at peace and out of pain. Please crank up his music, light a candle, say a prayer and let’s send this beautiful doll on his way.”
The New York Dolls released its self-titled 1973 debut album to little acclaim, and were generally far outside the mainstream (in fact, mostly known in New York City in the early days).
But the band and its album grew in stature as the world caught up, with Rolling Stone naming it to the 500 Greatest Albums of All Time list, thanks to songs like Personality Crisis and Bad Girl. They quickly became avatars for the punk scene that sprung up in their wake.
Syl Sylvain Mizrahi was born in Cairo, Egypt, moving to France with his family before coming to New York. He joined forces with future NY Dolls Arthur Kane, Johnny Thunders and Billy Murcia in the band Actress before co-founding New York Dolls in 1971.
Syl Sylvain versatility contributed on guitar, bass, piano and with songwriting on the group’s first two albums.
Sylvain Sylvain and vocalist David Johansen were in the band amid shifting lineups until finally ending things in 1977.
“His role in the band was as lynchpin, keeping the revolving satellites of his bandmates in precision,” Lenny Kaye wrote in a letter accompanying the announcement of Sylvain’s death. “Though he tried valiantly to keep the band going, in the end the Dolls’ moral fable overwhelmed them, not before seeding an influence that would engender many rock generations yet to come.”
Syl Sylvain started a solo career after the Dolls breakup, most notably the Criminals with Bobby Blain, Michael Page and Tony Machine. His solo work included his 1979 self-titled debut, 1981’s Syl Sylvain and the Teardrops and 1998’s Sleep Baby Doll.
A New York Dolls reunion in 2004 produced three more albums, One Day It Will Please Us to Remember Even This, Cause I Sez So and Dancing Backward in High Heels.
He was also a member of the Batusis, who released an EP in 2010, and in 2016 he performed at South by Southwest.
Sylvain will be bured in New York, according to his wife.