The news of his passing was confirmed by former PATTI SMITH GROUP guitarist Lenny Kaye, who wrote: “Sylvain Sylvain, the heart and soul of the NEW YORK DOLLS, bearer of the Teenage News, passed into his next astral incarnation on Wednesday, January 13, 2021.
“Syl loved rock and roll. His onstage joy, his radiant smile as he chopped at his guitar, revealed the sense of wonder he must have felt at the age of 10, emigrating from his native Cairo with his family in 1961, the ship pulling into New York Harbor and seeing the Statue of Liberty for the first time.
“It was he who looked across Lexington Ave. and saw the sign for the New York Doll hospital. Syl and a high school friend, Billy Murcia, were in the rag trade then, the aptly named Truth And Soul, handknit sweaters with a side of rockattitude. Hooking up with another classmate, John Genzale, and then, as bands will, Arthur Kane, and David Johansen, and Jerry Nolan, they became a quasar in the rock firmament; embodying trash, glam, garage-to-punk, the ambisexual affirmation of music played louder.
“His role in the band was as lynchpin, keeping the revolving satellites of his bandmates in precision. Though he tried valiantly to keep the band going, in the end the DOLLS‘ moral fable overwhelmed them, not before seeding an influence that would engender many rock generations yet to come.
“THE NEW YORK DOLLS heralded the future, made it easy to dance to. From the time I first saw their poster appear on the wall of Village Oldies in 1972, advertising a residency at the Mercer Hotel up the street, throughout their meteoric ascent and shooting star flame-out, the NEW YORK DOLLS were the heated core of this music we hail, the band that makes you want to form a band.
“Syl never stopped. In his solo lifeline, he was welcomed all over the world, from England to Japan, but most of all the rock dens of New York City, which is where I caught up with him a couple of years ago at the Bowery Electric. Still Syl. His corkscrew curls, tireless bounce, exulting in living his dream, asking the crowd to sing along, and so we will. His twin names, mirrored, becomes us.
“Thank you Sylvain x 2, for your heart, belief, and the way you whacked that E chord. Sleep Baby Doll”.
In April 2019, a fundraising campaign was launched for Sylvain, who revealed that he had been diagnosed with cancer.
“I have not been able to work since last year,” he wrote, “and have more surgery scheduled. I love life! As hard as life has been to me these past two years, I want to live and I know with your love and support I’ll have the best chance that I could ever have.”
The NEW YORK DOLLS were called many things — glam, proto-punk, hard rock — but are probably best understood as a “dirty rock and roll” band. Combining an aggressively androgynous style with street-smart New York attitude and campy humor, the NEW YORK DOLLS ushered in the era of CBGBs, heroin chic, loud guitars and referential lyrics which gave rise to Patti Smith, the RAMONES, TELEVISION and many more. Fans of the band range from GUNS N’ ROSES to Morrissey, who organized the reformation of the band when he curated Meltdown festival in 2004.
Sylvain remained the NEW YORK DOLLS until the group’s breakup in 1977. He later worked on various projects, including a band called THE CRIMINALS and another group called THE TEARDROPS. Sylvain reunited with NEW YORK DOLLS in 2004 and played on the band’s last three albums, “One Day It Will Please Us To Remember Even This”, “Cause I Sez So” and “Dancing Backward In High Heels”.
Sylvain‘s autobiography, “There’s No Bones In Ice Cream”, was released in 2018 via Omnibus Press.
Sylvain Sylvain Mizrahi
Rest In Peace
February 14, 1951 ~ January 13, 2021
As most of you know, Sylvain battled cancer…
RIP Sylvain Sylvain, bringing the style and swagger to the original Glam-Punk Gods #NewYorkDolls! Heroes to my Heroes… I’m gonna put on “Trash” & “Pills” & “(There’s Gonna Be A) Showdown” in honor of Sylvain and the rest of the lipstick killers! pic.twitter.com/Vm9Oo5bDrD
— Mike McCready (@MikeMcCreadyPJ) January 15, 2021
Aw man….One of the NYC originals, Sylvain Sylvain has passed away. He was a true sweetheart. In 1980 sitting on a couch in my old band loft, he gave me my stage name of Steve Stevens. Where’d ya get that beat, got that beat on 14th street. pic.twitter.com/90zp6zaDUj
— Steve Stevens (@Stevestevens) January 15, 2021
So very sorry to hear of the passing of Sylvain Sylvain. A true original with a pure Rock And Roll heart. So thankful for the time we had. I’ll be cranking up the Dolls tonight. Like most nights but tonight it’s bittersweet. ❤️?❤️#ripsylvainsylvain #sylvainsylvain pic.twitter.com/GmgVkInY4b
— Todd Dammit Kerns (@todddammitkerns) January 15, 2021
So many tears so many who have passed. Sylvain Sylvain created the New York Dolls, clothed the New York Dolls, put a guitar in Johnny‘s hands, wrote fantastic songs and lived the life, a life that manifested bands all over the world. You are loved Syl. pic.twitter.com/eZmBpvudMF
— Michael Des Barres (@MDesbarres) January 15, 2021
Ok so it can now be said –
Sylvain Sylvain, founder of the New York Dolls has
left this earthly plane.
My stage-right guitar partner for 6 of the best years of my musical life, a beautiful soul who deserved way more than he got in this lifetime.
I am absolutely gutted.
— Steve Conte (@SteveConteNYC) January 15, 2021
New York Dolls -Sylvain Sylvain
— wednesday 13 (@officialwed13) January 15, 2021
Deleted my earlier post for a number of reasons but let’s all raise a glass to Sylvain Sylvain tonight. A huge and underrated talent, his playing and songwriting left an unmistakable stamp on everything that he did. RIP and big L-U-V to ya, Syl ♥️https://t.co/fpqnqo3n8f
— Rich Jones (@richloyalty) January 15, 2021
No no no no. It’s too much. Sylvain Sylvain I’m speechless with this loss. He lived so completely and deserved better. Photos from when I got to sit in with him. One of my BEST rocknroll nights of life. It went so well we talked about touring together. Insanely sad pic.twitter.com/tDQeXm3Q7v
— Kathy Valentine (@Kathy_Valentine) January 15, 2021
— Damon Johnson (@DamonJOfficial) January 15, 2021
— Billy Idol (@BillyIdol) January 15, 2021