The British musician passed away at home on Monday, according to a statement posted on his social media accounts. Johnson had been diagnosed with terminal pancreatic cancer in 2013 and opted not to receive chemotherapy. At the time of his diagnosis, he was told he would have—at most—10 months to live.
Two years earlier, Johnson had made his acting debut in the first season of “Game of Thrones,” playing mute executioner Ser Ilyn Payne, a role which he reprised in Season Two.
But Johnson had first found fame in the 1970s with his pub-rock band Dr. Feelgood. He blew audiences away with his intensely energetic performances and unorthodox playing style, in which he used fingerpicking to play riffs or solos and chords at the same time.
He went on to play alongside Ian Drury before embarking on a solo career spanning four decades. In 2014, he collaborated on an album with The Who’s Roger Daltrey, Going Back Home. He also revealed he was cancer-free later that year after having an extreme 11-hour surgery to remove a large tumor, which involved removing parts of his intestines and stomach.
“Now, I’m spending my time gradually coming to terms with the idea that my death is not imminent, that I am going to live on,” he said at the 2014 Q Awards.
He continued playing live shows up until last month. Johnson’s last show came on Oct. 18 at the Shepherd’s Bush Empire in London.
News of his death was shared with his fans on Wednesday. “This is the announcement we never wanted to make, and we do so, on behalf of Wilko’s family and the band, with a very heavy heart,” the statement read.
“Wilko Johnson has died. He passed away at home on Monday evening, 21 November 2022. Thank you for respecting Wilko’s family’s privacy at this very sad time, and thank you all for having been such a tremendous support throughout Wilko’s incredible life.”
Following the announcement, tributes to Johnson have flooded out from those who knew and admired him.
“I’m sad to hear today of the passing of Wilko Johnson,” Led Zeppelin guitarist Jimmy Page tweeted, adding that the atmosphere at one of his 2013 shows attended by Page had been “electric.”
“More than anything Wilko wanted to be a poet,” Roger Daltrey said in a statement. “I was lucky to have known him and have him as a friend. His music lives on but there’s no escaping the final curtain this time.”
Billy Bragg tweeted that Johnson was a “precursor of punk,” writing: “His guitar playing was angry and angular, but his presence—twitchy, confrontational, out of control—was something we’d never beheld before in U.K. pop.”