Wilko Johnson, Dr. Feelgood guitarist and Game of Thrones actor, dies at 75

Wilko Johnson, the guitarist with British blues-rock band Dr. Feelgood, who had a career renaissance after being diagnosed with terminal cancer, has died aged 75.

A statement on Johnson’s Twitter page said the musician died at his home in south-east England on Monday evening. No further details were given.

Born John Wilkinson in 1947 in Canvey Island, Essex, Johnson found fame in the 1970s with Dr. Feelgood. The group was a herald of English punk rock, with major bands said to have been influenced by Dr. Feelgood including The Clash, The Jam and The Sex Pistols.

A left-hander who played right-handed, Johnson helped give Dr. Feelgood a dangerous edge with his choppy, relentless guitar style and thousand-yard glare.

Wilko Johnson was a left-hander who played guitar right-handed.(Reuters: Paul Hackett)

It was a look terrifying enough to earn him a role later in life on one of the entertainment industry’s biggest fantasy dramas — as mute royal executioner Ser Ilyn Payne in the hit HBO series Game of Thrones.

Actor Wilko Johnson dressed as his character Ser Ilyn Payne on the fantasy television show Game of Thrones
Wilko Johnson played mute executioner Ser Ilyn Payne on Game of Thrones. (Supplied: HBO)

Johnson revived by prospect of death

In January 2013, Johnson was diagnosed with pancreatic cancer and was told it was terminal.

He declined chemotherapy and instead decided to embark on a final tour. He also recorded a final album, Going Back Home, with Roger Daltrey of The Who.

“I suddenly found myself in a position where nothing matters anymore,” he told the Associated Press in 2013.

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“I’m a miserable so-and-so normally … I’d be worrying about the taxman or all the things that we worry about that get in the way of the real things. And suddenly it doesn’t matter. All of that doesn’t matter,””he said.

“You walk down the street and you feel intensely alive. You’re, ‘Oh, look at that leaf!’ You’re looking around and you think, ‘I’m alive. Ain’t it amazing?'”

Fellow musicians took to social media to pay tribute Johnson following his death, including Led Zeppelin guitarist Jimmy Page.

“I saw Wilko perform at Koko in Camden in May 2013 and the atmosphere was electric,” Page wrote on Instagram.

“This show was originally billed as his farewell tour … but, thankfully, he continued performing and thrilling crowds until recently.

“I really admired him and we’ll all miss him. RIP Wilko.”

Johnson is survived by his sons Simon and Matthew and grandson Dylan.

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