Sylvain Sylvain of the Proto-Punk Band New York Dolls Dies at 69

The band made a quick splash but within a few years had dissolved, leaving only two albums from its heyday, “New York Dolls” (1973) and the prophetically titled “Too Much Too Soon” (1974, the title borrowed from the autobiography of the actress Diana Barrymore). It produced no radio-friendly hits, but its fame grew after the fact. As Mr. Sylvain put it in his memoir, “There’s No Bones in Ice Cream” (2018, written with Dave Thompson), “We were reborn as an historical precedent, year zero of punk, the Roanoke colonists of the new wave’s new world.”

Mr. Murcia died of an overdose while the band was touring England in 1972. Johnny Thunders died in 1991. Jerry Nolan, who replaced Mr. Murcia and played on the albums, died in 1992. Mr. Sylvain continued to perform with his own groups and with Mr. Johansen after the Dolls dissolved. In 2004 he, Mr. Johansen and the other surviving member of the Dolls, the bassist Arthur Kane, reunited for the Meltdown Festival in London, but Mr. Kane died of leukemia soon after.

Mr. Sylvain once summed up the band’s bittersweet arc.

“It was like a race, and we were like horses,” he said. “The Dolls were the number-one horse. We were right there, like two seconds away from the finish line, and behind us were the Ramones, Kiss, the Dictators and Blondie, and the list goes on. Then we fell and broke our leg and the next guy won the race.”

Sylvain Sylvain Mizrahi was born on Feb. 14, 1951, in Cairo. His father, David, a banker, was part of a family of Sephardic Jews originally from Turkey, and his mother, Marcelle, was of Syrian descent. The Suez Canal crisis of 1956, precipitated when Egypt’s president, Gamal Abdel Nasser, nationalized the canal, led to the family’s emigration.

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