Sylvain Sylvain, who helped usher in the 1970s punk rock era as the guitarist for the New York Dolls, died Wednesday in Nashville, Tennessee. He was 69.
Sylvain, whose real name was Sylvain Mizrahi, died from cancer, according to a post on his Facebook page made by his wife, Wanda O’Kelley Mizrahi.
Wanda Mizrahi said her husband had battled cancer “for the past 2½ years.” In 2019, Sylvain started a GoFundMe to help pay for his treatment, the Los Angeles Times reported.
“Though he fought it valiantly, yesterday he passed away from this disease,” Wanda Mizrahi wrote. “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 band members were famous for their androgynous clothing, makeup and high heels, CNN reported.
The band’s lineup changed through the years, but Sylvain and lead singer David Johansen remained until the band broke up in 1977. They reformed in 2004 before splitting up for good in 2011.
Johansen wrote on Instagram that Sylvain was his “best friend for so many years” and that he remembered the first time he saw him “bop into the rehearsal space/bike shop with his carpetbag and guitar.”
Born in Cairo, Egypt, in 1951, Sylvain moved with his family to France before settling in New York, Rolling Stone reported. He ran a clothing company and was a member of the band Actress before co-founding New York Dolls in 1971, the magazine reported. The group took its name from the toy repair shop New York Doll Hospital.
Sylvain played guitar, but on the group’s first two albums he also played piano and was a contributor to writing songs, Rolling Stone reported.
The group’s live show earned the band its cult following. They played at New York clubs, such as Max’s Kansas City and CBGBs and became famous for their music and outrageous outfits, Rolling Stone reported.
“In the Dolls, it was really a little bit like ‘The Little Rascals,’” Sylvain told Vogue in 2015. “‘Hey, man, we’re bored! What the (expletive) are we going to do?’ ‘Well, let’s put on a show! What do you got?’ ‘My mother’s got these weird lamé pants.’ ‘My older brother left this old motorcycle jacket that’s been in the closet.’ ‘Where are you going to get the makeup?’ ‘My girlfriend’s bag! She shops at Biba in London every other day.’ Once we got started and once we got going, we became the darlings of it all.”
After the Dolls’ breakup, Sylvain had a moderately successful solo career, the Times reported.