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David Johansen

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David Johansen in Concert

What's David Johansen like in concert? It depends on which side of the rock icon you're talking about. When he was fronting the legendary New York Dolls, either in their 1970s heyday or their reunion iteration, he was a raw, feral rock 'n' roll beast, roaring and howling as the moment demanded. 

In his alter ego Buster Poindexter, he becomes a comparatively suave, sophisticated cabaret singer. With his project The Harry Smiths (named for the renowned folk music archivist), he emerged as a proponent of sit-down acoustic roots music. 

When he's simply performing under his own name, as he has been at various points since the late '70s, Johansen assumes the full mantle of rock royalty. He taps into all the different aspects of his complex musical personality to deliver a show of electrifying rock 'n' roll sweat, energy, and charisma.

David Johansen Background

As the frontman for the New York Dolls, David Johansen has a huge role in rock history, but his contributions to the canon don't stop there. Born in Staten Island in 1950, he became a driving force in a radical new rock 'n' roll scene in New York City in the early '70s. 

He formed the New York Dolls in '71 and forged a raw, rambunctious sound that provided a blueprint for the punk revolution years later. When his game-changing run with the Dolls ended in the mid '70s, Johansen struck out on his own, releasing his self-titled solo debut LP in 1978. 

He continued working under his own name through the mid '80s, cutting such classic tunes as "Funky But Chic" and "Frenchette." Johansen subsequently emerged with his new persona, Buster Poindexter, nattily attired and delivering a kind of street cabaret sound that balanced perfectly between the boozy and the sophisticated, scoring the timeless 1987 hit "Hot, Hot, Hot" in the process. 

Around this time, Johansen also got into acting, and his credits would include ‘Scrooged' and HBO's ‘Oz.' In the 2000s, he divided his time between traditional folk/blues project The Harry Smiths and a full-blown Dolls reunion that brought the band blasting back to the front lines of rock 'n' roll, before eventually busting out with The David Johansen Band again.