“He was such a unique individual and a shining example of the great melting pot of American music,” said Auerbach in a statement announcing the project. “From his mysterious voodoo stage persona Dr John, to his real, humble self Mac Rebannack- the street poet, the family man, the junkie, the Grammy award winner and all that’s in between, this documentary will introduce the world to him in a way they haven’t seen him before. I’m still learning bits about him that I never knew, and I hope the movie provides a lens into the story of the life of Dr John.”
Auerbach previously produced Dr. John’s 2012 album Locked Down, which went on win the Grammy Award for Best Blues Album, as well a production Grammy for Auerbach. The album proved to be Dr. John’s penultimate release, and final album of entirely original material, as he passed away just seven years later from a heart attack at the age of 77.
Born in New Orleans in 1941, Rebennack grew up in the city’s Third Ward, where he discovered jazz artists in his father’s record shop and learned minstrel tunes from his extended family members. Although he had no proper musical education, per se, Rebennack had plenty of access to recording studios through his father’s connections in the local music scene.
By his teens, Rebennack became an active session musician as a guitarist and began working with a number of local Big Easy acts. In 1960, he suffered a gunshot wound during a gig that prompted him to focus on the piano, much like his idol and mentor Professor Longhair. Following a two-year sentence for selling narcotics and running a brothel, he moved to Los Angeles where he solidified his legend.
Among the many highlights in Rebennack’s storied career include being a part of the infamous Wrecking Crew; recording with The Rolling Stones, Van Morrison, Sonny & Cher, and Frank Zappa; performing with The Band in Martin Scorsese’s iconic documentary The Last Waltz; giving Bonnaroo its name with 1974’s Destively Bonnaroo; and inspiring Dr. Teeth of The Muppets.
The untitled documentary will be released in partnership with RadicalMedia, the same company behind Questlove’s acclaimed documentary Summer of Soul. A release date is still forthcoming.