In 2013, Dr Feelgood founder, Blockheads member and musical legend Wilko Johnson was diagnosed with terminal cancer. With ten months to live, he decided to accept his imminent death and went on the road. His calm, philosophical response made him even more beloved and admired. And then the strangest thing happened: he didn’t die. Don’t You Leave Me Here is the story of his life in music, his life with cancer, and his life now – in the future he never thought he would see.
I saw Wilko at the Edinburgh International Book Festival and, despite seeing over 30 events, he stole the show without a doubt. So full of life, funny and frank, it was just an absolute delight to delve into his musical history, life and miraculous story in the last few years in particular.
The book is no different.
If anything, he breezes through it. The Feelgoods get far less page space than you’d imagine, his childhood flashing by. His wife Irene and his own terminal diagnosis take up the most pages and, bloody hell, will your heart hurt reading them. Love and grief are laid bare in the pages.
But it’s not all heartache, it’s hilarious and uplifting too.
Wilko found out he had ten months to live three years ago. He was calm when he heard the words ‘terminal cancer’. He was ecstatic for that year, euphoric, living life to the fullest, accepting the end. Now he’s cured, and living a life he never thought he’d see, and his whole approach just makes you think, “Fuck it, I wish I grabbed life even half as hard as he does”.
He deals with the breakdown of the Feelgoods with frankness, declaring “I was an arsehole”, where many autobiographies tend to skew their lives in sainthood. Wilko is an astounding guy, his life is one hell of a story, and his book captures it all in quick bursts. It’s a life you want to read about, and now you can.