Sylvain Sylvain, punk guitar icon and co-founder of the New York Dolls, died Wednesday from cancer at the age of 69, his wife announced Wednesday in a Facebook post. "As most of you know, Sylvain battled cancer for the past two and 1/2 years," wrote Wanda O'Kelley Mizrahi on social media. "Though he fought it valiantly, yesterday he passed away from this disease."
"While we grieve his loss, we know that he is finally at peace and out of pain," she continued. "Please crank up his music, light a candle, say a prayer and let’s send this beautiful doll on his way." The New York Dolls first made their name in the New York City underground scene, releasing its self-titled debut album in 1973 to little fanfare. Over the years, however, the band's work was appreciated by the broader music scene, even added to Rolling Stone's 500 Greatest Albums of All Time list, after the success of songs like Personality Crisis and Bad Girl, which helped form the punk scene that was developing at the time.
Sylvain Mizrahi was born in Cairo, Egypt, and lived in France with his family before moving across the Atlantic to New York, where he found fellow New York Dolls member Arthur Kane, Johnny Thunders and Billy Murcia while playing in the band Actress. Founding the New York Dolls in 1971, Sylvain played the guitar, bass, piano, and songwriting on its first two albums.
"His role in the band was as lynchpin, keeping the revolving satellites of his bandmates in precision," Lenny Kaye wrote in a letter alongside Sylvain's death announcement. "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."
Following the Dolls' breakup in 1977, Sylvain embarked on a solo career, working with Bobby Blain, Michael Page and Tony Machine on the Criminals before putting out his 1979 self-titled debut, 1981’s Syl Sylvain and the Teardrops and 1998’s Sleep Baby Doll. In 2004, the New York Dolls reunited for three more albums: One Day It Will Please Us to Remember Even This, Cause I Sez So and Dancing Backward in High Heels. As the music world mourns the death of a punk icon, Sylvain will be buried in New York, his wife shared in her announcement.