Sylvain Sylvain, Guitarist for the New York Dolls, Dead at 69

The rocker's wife said on Facebook that he died after battling cancer for more than two years

Sylvain Sylvain
Sylvain Sylvain. Photo: Barney Britton/Redferns

New York Dolls guitarist Sylvain Sylvain has died. He was 69.

Sylvain's wife, Wanda O'Kelley Mizrahi, shared the news of his death in a Facebook post Thursday, revealing that he died on Wednesday.

"As most of you know, Sylvain battled cancer for the past two and 1/2 years," Mizrahi wrote. "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."

Sylvain will be buried in New York, Mizrahi told Rolling Stone.

"Please crank up his music, light a candle, say a prayer and let's send this beautiful doll on his way," Mizrahi added, going on to share a tribute to Sylvain written by guitarist Lenny Kaye.

Sylvain (né Sylvain Mizrahi) was born in Cairo, Egypt, on Valentine's Day in 1951. His family moved to France, and then New York, where he later helped found the New York Dolls in 1971. The group released a self-titled debut album in 1973, which was followed by a sophomore album, Too Much Too Soon, in 1974. On both albums, Sylvain was credited with contributing guitar, piano and vocals.

Sylvain Sylvain
Sylvain Sylvain. Bobby Bank/WireImage

Kaye said Sylvain's "role in the band was as lynchpin, keeping the revolving satellites of his bandmates in precision."

"The New York Dolls heralded the future, made it easy to dance to," Kaye wrote of the band. "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."

The band broke up in 1977, but, as Kaye wrote, "Syl never stopped."

Sylvain released his first solo album in 1979, and then continued releasing music into the 1990s. The New York Dolls reunited in 2004, and Sylvain appeared on the band's final three albums: One Day It Will Please Us to Remember Even This in 2006, Cause I Sez So in 2009, and Dancing Backward in High Heels in 2011.

"Thank you Sylvain x 2, for your heart, belief, and the way you whacked that E chord," Kaye concluded his tribute. "Sleep Baby Doll."

Sylvain revealed his cancer diagnosis back in 2019, and a GoFundMe campaign was launched to help raise money for his medical expenses.

He was remembered by several of his fellow musicians on Twitter Thursday.

"Aw man....One of the NYC originals, Sylvain Sylvain has passed away," wrote Steve Stevens, calling Sylvain a "true sweetheart."

"In 1980 sitting on a couch in my old band loft, he gave me my stage name of Steve Stevens," Stevens added, concluding with one of Sylvain's lyrics: "Where'd ya get that beat, got that beat on 14th street."

The Waterboys lead singer Mike Scott wrote in a tweet, "Travel on well Sylvain Sylvain you all-time great rock and roller (February 14, 1951 - January 13, 2021)."

In another tweet, Kid Congo Powers said that Sylvain was one of his early inspirations.

"All Hail Sylvain Sylvain !" the guitarist wrote. "The New York Dolls did so much for me, personally, as an inspiration since my teens. R.I.P."

Related Articles