Terminally ill Wilko announces “farewell concerts” as thank you for fans

Determined to deal with his recent diagnosis of terminal cancer on his own terms, Essex guitar hero Wilko Johnson  has announced four farewell concerts to say thank you to his fans.

Wilko Johnson: Farewell tour
Wilko Johnson: Farewell tour

Wilko, who found fame with trailblazing Essex pub-rockers Dr Feelgood in the 1970s, is best known for his rapid-fire machine-gun style of playing and his wild eyed stage persona.

He discovered he had inoperable pancreatic cancer late last year. Told that he may enjoy several months of reasonable health, he rejected the offer of life-prolonging but possibly debilitating chemotherapy.

His manager Robert Hoy says that 65-year-old Wilko, who also played with Ian Dury and The Blockheads and had long led his own Wilko Johnson Band, will play concerts in London, West Midlands, Yorkshire and Glasgow in March.

Hoy said the dates offered Wilko “an opportunity to express his sincere thanks to fans for all the support he has had throught his career.”

In addition to his work as a musician Wilko has also recently appeared as the mute executioner Ilyn Payne, in the fantasy series Game of Thrones.

Tickets go on sale on Monday (January 21). Contact the Box Office: 0844 478 0898, www.thegigcartel.com.

Wilko says ‘I’ll play on’ as he is diagnosed with terminal cancer

Wilko Johnson

I was sad to learn that the inimitable Wilko Johnson has been diagnosed with terminal cancer. The former Dr Feelgood and Blockheads guitarist discovered he had inoperable cancer of the pancreas just before Christmas.

Having been told that even without treatment he may have several months of reasonable health, the 65-year-old musician has announced that he has chosen not to receive  chemotherapy and says he will keep performing as long as he can.

Wilko is currently in Japan. A statement from his management says: “on his return we plan to complete a new CD, make a short tour of France, then give a series of farewell gigs in the UK. There is also a live DVD in the pipeline, filmed on the last UK tour.

“Wilko wishes to offer his sincere thanks for all the support he has had over his long career, from those who have worked with him to, above all, those devoted fans and admirers who have attended his live gigs, bought his recordings and generally made his life such an extraordinarily full and eventful experience.”

Known for his manic stage persona and machine-gun style of guitar playing, a curious combination of  rhythm and lead,  Wilko rose to fame in the mid 1970s with the legendary Southend-based R&B band Dr Feelgood. He left the Feelgoods in 1977 and later joined Ian Dury and The Blockheads. He has also enjoyed a successful ongoing solo career.

Many people will recognise Wilko more readily as the mute executioner Ilyn Payne in hit TV series Game Of Thrones. He landed the acting role after appearing in the award-winning Feelgoods documentary Oil City Confidential.

Christmas chaos ding dongs merrily into our lives

Things can only get better! Christmas has been hijacked this year by a number of unexpected events, not least my 84-year-old father being diagnosed with cancer and having to spend nearly a week in hospital. First they built him up with steroids and then gave him a hefty dose of chemotherapy. He was kept him under observation for several days as they juggled the doses of the drugs that he’ll probably be taking for the rest of his life and then monitored the results.

Dad was finally allowed home at 6.00pm yesterday (Christmas Eve). This was the best gift possible for my 86-year-old mother, but will she/they cope? Incredibly independent, mentally sharp and decades younger in attitude than their octogenarian status would suggest, they have finally realised that they’re actually rather old and that physical frailty has, quite suddenly,  become a serious problem in their lives. Until a little over a week ago they regarded the vagaries of advancing years  as a mere inconvenience, at worst a nuisance.

Now they’ve been fast-tracked into the twilight zone, picked up by myriad systems – the NHS, Macmillan, district nurses and so on. All this has come as an almighty shock. A massive change of fortune triggered by dad’s discovery of a curious lump in his neck while shaving and the subsequent medical investigations that swung into action almost as soon as he had consulted his local GP. In the short-term poor dad faces at least five more sessions of chemo and a very uncertain future. We keep our fingers crossed!

On a much more trivial front we also suffered a bit of a domestic appliance disaster this morning when the new cooker that we took delivery of just three weeks ago  decided to have a nervous breakdown. Having worked like a dream since installation, the main oven chose today of all days to start only operating on slow-cook. Our splendid turkey has now been taken to a friend’s house and is currently gently roasting in an oven half-a-mile from our dinner table. Yikes! At least we were able to laugh. It might be a complete pain but when we think of the terrible things that happen to others – the sick, the homeless, the poverty-stricken and those in distress – we know we are very lucky indeed.

Footnote:  the turkey  eventually  returned from its travels wonderfully cooked.

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