We are saddened to report Sylvain Sylvain, guitarist and founding member of the New York Dolls has died at the age of 69. Sylvain, real name Sylvain Mizrahi, died on Wednesday (13) after fighting a two and a half year battle of cancer. The news was confirmed on Thursday night in a statement posted on his Facebook page:
“Sylvain Sylvain Mizrahi
Rest In Peace
February 14, 1951 ~ January 13, 2021
As most of you know, Sylvain battled cancer for the past two and 1/2 years. 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.
Please read this letter written for Syl by Lenny Kaye
SYL: An Appreciation
Sylvain Sylvain, the heart and soul of the New York Dolls, bearer of the Teenage News, passed into his next astral incarnation on Wednesday, January 13, 2021.
Syl loved rock and roll. His onstage joy, his radiant smile as he chopped at his guitar, revealed the sense of wonder he must have felt at the age of 10, emigrating from his native Cairo with his family in 1961, the ship pulling into New York Harbor and seeing the Statue of Liberty for the first time.
It was he who looked across Lexington Ave. and saw the sign for the New York Doll hospital. Syl and a high school friend, Billy Murcia, were in the rag trade then, the aptly named Truth and Soul, handknit sweaters with a side of rockattitude. Hooking up with another classmate, John Genzale, and then, as bands will, Arthur Kane, and David Johansen, and Jerry Nolan, they became a quasar in the rock firmament; embodying trash, glam, garage-to-punk, the ambisexual affirmation of music played louder.
His role in the band was as lynchpin, keeping the revolving satellites of his bandmates in precision. 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.
The New York Dolls heralded the future, made it easy to dance to. From the time I first saw their poster appear on the wall of Village Oldies in 1972, advertising a residency at the Mercer Hotel up the street, throughout their meteoric ascent and shooting star flame-out, the New York Dolls were the heated core of this music we hail, the band that makes you want to form a band.
Syl never stopped. In his solo lifeline, he was welcomed all over the world, from England to Japan, but most of all the rock dens of New York City, which is where I caught up with him a couple of years ago at the Bowery Electric. Still Syl. His corkscrew curls, tireless bounce, exulting in living his dream, asking the crowd to sing along, and so we will. His twin names, mirrored, becomes us.
Thank you Sylvain x 2, for your heart, belief, and the way you whacked that E chord. Sleep Baby Doll.”
— Billy Idol (@BillyIdol) January 15, 2021
No no no no. It’s too much. Sylvain Sylvain I’m speechless with this loss. He lived so completely and deserved better. Photos from when I got to sit in with him. One of my BEST rocknroll nights of life. It went so well we talked about touring together. Insanely sad pic.twitter.com/tDQeXm3Q7v
— Kathy Valentine (@Kathy_Valentine) January 15, 2021
RIP Sylvain Sylvain, bringing the style and swagger to the original Glam-Punk Gods #NewYorkDolls! Heroes to my Heroes… I’m gonna put on “Trash” & “Pills” & “(There’s Gonna Be A) Showdown” in honor of Sylvain and the rest of the lipstick killers! pic.twitter.com/Vm9Oo5bDrD
— Mike McCready (@MikeMcCreadyPJ) January 15, 2021
Aw man….One of the NYC originals, Sylvain Sylvain has passed away. He was a true sweetheart. In 1980 sitting on a couch in my old band loft, he gave me my stage name of Steve Stevens. Where’d ya get that beat, got that beat on 14th street. pic.twitter.com/90zp6zaDUj
— Steve Stevens (@Stevestevens) January 15, 2021
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Deleted my earlier post for a number of reasons but let’s all raise a glass to Sylvain Sylvain tonight. A huge and underrated talent, his playing and songwriting left an unmistakable stamp on everything that he did. RIP and big L-U-V to ya, Syl ♥️https://t.co/fpqnqo3n8f
— Rich Jones (@richloyalty) January 15, 2021
New York Dolls -Sylvain Sylvain
— wednesday 13 (@officialwed13) January 15, 2021
So very sorry to hear of the passing of Sylvain Sylvain. A true original with a pure Rock And Roll heart. So thankful for the time we had. I’ll be cranking up the Dolls tonight. Like most nights but tonight it’s bittersweet. ❤️💔❤️#ripsylvainsylvain #sylvainsylvain pic.twitter.com/GmgVkInY4b
— Todd Dammit Kerns (@todddammitkerns) January 15, 2021
Our thoughts go out to Sylvain’s family and friends during this difficult time.