Sylvain Sylvain (February 14, 1951 — January 13, 2021) was an American rock guitarist, most notable for being a founding member of the legendary New York Dolls.
Sylvain Sylvain was born Sylvain Mizrahi in Cairo, Egypt, but his family fled in the 1950s, first to France and finally to New York, United States. The Mizrahis lived first in Buffalo, New York, and later moved to the New York City neighborhood of Rego Park, Queens. Sylvain attended Newtown High School in Queens and then Quintano’s School for Young Professionals in Manhattan.
Before forming the New York Dolls, Sylvain and his future bandmate Billy Murcia ran a clothing company called “Truth and Soul,” which helped define his fashion sense and would play a role in the band’s ground breaking look.
Sylvain Sylvain was a member of the band “Actress”, which also featured Arthur Kane, Johnny Thunders and Billy Murcia before the New York Dolls in 1971.
Late in 1972, tragedy struck when, during a tour of England, New York Dolls drummer Billy Murcia died in a drug-related accident. He was replaced by Jerry Nolan, after which the Dolls finally secured a contract with Mercury Records.
Their debut album, simply called “New York Dolls”, was full of sleazy, raucous anthems like “Personality Crisis” and “Trash”, only got to number 113 in the US chart but is now regarded as a classic. Rolling Stone magazine named it one of the 500 Greatest Albums of All Time, writing: “Glammed-out punkers the New York Dolls snatched riffs from Chuck Berry and Fats Domino and fattened them with loads of attitude and reverb.
However, the band’s lack of commercial success saw them dropped after two albums and, despite hiring Sex Pistols guru Malcolm McLaren as a manager, they eventually broke up in 1977.
After the Dolls, Sylvain Sylvain frequently played on other peoples records, started his own band, The Criminals, with another ex-Doll, Tony Machine, and continued to play the New York club scene. He landed a solo recording contract with RCA, and released one album with Lee Crystal (later of Joan Jett’s Blackhearts) on drums and Johnny Ráo on guitar.
Sylvain Sylvain moved to Los Angeles in the early 1990s and recorded one record, “Sleep Baby Doll” for Fishhead Records. In the late 1990s he teamed up with the LA punk band The Streetwalkin’ Cheetahs for some touring and they recorded a live radio broadcast on KXLU that has still not been released. The tour ended with an Atlanta show at the Navarre annual conference co-headlining with John Entwistle.
In 2004 Sylvain Sylvain reunited with the surviving members of the New York Dolls, plus Steve Conte, Brian Koonin, Brian Delaney and Sami Yaffa, and they released three records: “One Day It Will Please Us To Remember Even This”, “Cause I Sez So”, and “Dancing Backward in High Heels”. T
On March 18, 2010, at the South by Southwest music festival in Austin, Texas, Sylvain Sylvain and Cheetah Chrome, from The Dead Boys, and Rocket, from the Tombs, debuted their new band, The Batusis. They released an EP is on Smog Veil Records.
In November 2012, Sylvain Sylvain posted a video for his new single, “Leaving New York,” on the Internet, and available on iTunes.
In 2013 and 2014 Sylvain joined with Glen Matlock, from the Sex Pistols, as the “Sex Doll Tour”.
In 2015, Sylvain Sylvain emerged again with a new band called “Sylvain Sylvain and the Sylvains” from Austin, Texas, with Chris Alaniz (drums), Jason “Ginchy” Kottwitz (guitar), and Gabriel Von Asher (bass).
In 2018, Sylvain Sylvain joined forces with Steve Conte, Sami Yaffa, and Robert Eriksson for two one-off dates in Tokyo as “The Dolls.” They played at Shinjuku Marz on February 11, and Shimokitazawa Garden on February 12.
After living in Atlanta for several years, Sylvain moved to Nashville in 2015.
On April 27, 2019, Sylvain Sylvain announced that he had cancer and set up a GoFundMe page to raise money to help pay for treatment.
Sylvain Sylvain died from cancer, On January 13, 2021, aged 69.
“It’s hard to imagine the Ramones or the Replacements or a thousand other trash-junky bands without them.”
Artists from the Sex Pistols to Guns N’ Roses cited th New York Dools as an influence, and Morrissey was famously president of their UK fan club before forming The Smiths.
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