Cult musician Wilko Johnson "so alive" as death approaches

Mon Feb 4, 2013 10:54am EST
 

By Jeremy Gaunt

WESTCLIFF-ON-SEA (Reuters) - Wilko Johnson, cult guitarist from 1970s beat band Dr Feelgood and herald of English punk rock, is on a high - even though he is dying of pancreatic cancer.

The musician, songwriter and sometime actor has watched with amazement as a planned tour of farewell concerts sold out and interest has surged in almost anything he has touched, including the 2009 award-winning documentary "Oil City Confidential."

One British newspaper has even affectionately dubbed him the country's latest "national treasure".

"Why didn't we think of this 20 years ago?" Johnson told Reuters, at home a few miles from his Canvey Island birthplace, near where the Thames estuary opens into the English Channel.

It is the kind of joke, accompanied by a devilish laugh, that makes death far easier to talk about than expected.

Johnson, 65, will happily tell you that learning last month that the end of his life is probably less than a year away has not all been negative, with an almost "euphoric" feeling keeping some of his darker traits seem totally in check.

"It makes you feel so alive," he said. "Just walking down the street, man, everything looks really intense. Any little thing you look at, it almost gives you a kind of childlike consciousness.

"I'm a miserable so-and-so. I suffer from depression and everything ... but all that stuff whatever it was I used to worry about - it doesn't matter. What's gone, what is and what will be, do not matter."   Continued...

 
Musician Wilko Johnson poses for a photograph at his home in Westcliff - on- sea, Essex, southern England February 1, 2013. Johnson, cult guitarist from 1970s beat band Dr Feelgood and herald of English punk rock, is on a high - even though he is dying of pancreatic cancer. The musician, songwriter and sometime actor has watched with amazement as a planned tour of farewell concerts sold out and interest has surged in almost anything he has touched, including the 2009 award-winning documentary "Oil City Confidential." Photograph taken on February 1, 2013. REUTERS/Paul Hackett