Wilko Johnson, the British musician who also portrayed Ser Ilyn Payne in Game of Thrones, has died. He was 75.
The news was shared early Wednesday morning via Johnson’s social media: “This is the announcement we never wanted to make, & we do so with a very heavy heart: Wilko Johnson has died,” reads a tribute post. “He passed away at home on Monday 21st November. Thank you for respecting the family’s privacy at this very sad time. RIP Wilko Johnson.”
Born John Peter Wilkinson in Essex, England, Johnson rose to prominence in the ’70s as the guitarist of the rock band Dr. Feelgood, known for his distinctive percussive sound. Dr. Feelgood released three studio albums throughout their short tenure, as well as a 1976 live album Stupidity, which would go on to top the UK album charts.
Johnson’s style of guitar playing and Dr. Feelgood’s no-frills approach marked some fundamental early influences of the British punk movement, inspiring future legends like Sex Pistols’ John Lydon and Jam’s Paul Weller.
In 2013, Johnson was diagnosed with late-stage pancreatic cancer, although it was later discovered that he had a pancreatic neuroendocrine tumour (PanNET), which are less aggressive and more treatable. The following year, after an intensive operation to remove the tumor, Johnson announced he was cancer-free.
After Game of Thrones producers saw Johnson in the 2009 Dr. Feelgood biopic Oil City Confidential, he was asked to play the character of Ser Ilyn Payne, who appeared in four episodes in the show’s first two seasons.
“They said they wanted somebody really sinister who went around looking daggers at people before killing them,” Johnson recalled at the time. “That made it easy. Looking daggers at people is what I do all the time, it’s like second nature to me… Afterwards, the American director came up to me and said ‘Wilko, you don’t have to act scary. You are scary.’”
Johnson married his childhood sweetheart Irene Knight, with whom he had two sons. One of them, Simon, followed in his father’s footsteps by playing guitar in the band Eight Rounds Rapid.
This is the announcement we never wanted to make, & we do so with a very heavy heart: Wilko Johnson has died. He passed away at home on Monday 21st November. Thank you for respecting the family’s privacy at this very sad time. RIP Wilko Johnson.
(Image: Leif Laaksonen) pic.twitter.com/1cRqyi9b9X
— Wilko Johnson (@wilkojohnson) November 23, 2022