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David Johansen

David Johansen
David Johansen, 2011
Born David Roger Johansen
(1950-01-09) January 9, 1950
Staten Island, New York, United States
Other names Buster Poindexter
Occupation Musician, songwriter, actor
Years active 1968–present
Spouse(s) Cyrinda Foxe (m. 1977 – 1978) Kate Simon (m. 1983 – 2011) Mara Hennessey (m. 2013 – present)

David Roger Johansen[1] (born January 9, 1950) is an American rock, protopunk, blues, and pop singer, songwriter and actor. He is best known as a member of the seminal protopunk band The New York Dolls. He is also known for his work under the pseudonym Buster Poindexter.


  • Early life 1
  • Career 2
    • Buster Poindexter 2.1
  • Acting 3
    • Later solo career 3.1
  • Personal life 4
  • Discography 5
    • New York Dolls albums 5.1
    • Solo 5.2
    • Buster Poindexter albums 5.3
    • David Johansen and the Harry Smiths albums 5.4
    • Video performances 5.5
    • Compilation albums 5.6
  • References 6
  • Further reading 7
  • External links 8

Early life

Johansen was born in the New York City borough of Staten Island, New York, to a librarian mother, Helen, and an insurance sales representative father who had previously sung opera.[2][3] Johansen's family was Catholic. His mother was Irish American and his father was Norwegian American.[1]


Johansen began his career in the late 1960s as a lead singer in the local Staten Island band the Vagabond Missionaries and later in the early 1970s as the singer/songwriter in the protopunk band the New York Dolls. The New York Dolls released two albums, the eponymous New York Dolls (1973), and Too Much Too Soon (1974). The bulk of the material was written by Johansen and guitarist Johnny Thunders. The Dolls were well received critically, but failed to succeed commercially.

In 1975, Johnny Thunders and Jerry Nolan left the band. Johansen and Sylvain Sylvain, along with Peter Jordan, Chris Robison, and Tony Machine, continued playing as the New York Dolls, until 1977, after which Johansen embarked on a solo career. His first two albums, David Johansen and In Style, featured several enduring originals. Sylvain Sylvain frequently performed with him, and his band covered many Dolls songs in concert; his live albums Live It Up and The David Johansen Group Live document Johansen's reputation as an exceptional concert performer. The studio releases Here Comes the Night (which includes a signature number, "Heart of Gold") and Sweet Revenge again showcased his strengths as a writer of new material and featured a guest appearance by jazz saxophone player Big Jay McNeely. A number of the songs on "Here Comes the Night" were co-written with South African musician Blondie Chaplin. In 1982 Johansen was the opening act for The Who at several U.S. East Coast concerts, including Byrne Meadowlands Arena and Capital Centre.

Buster Poindexter

In the late 1980s, Johansen achieved moderate commercial success under the pseudonym Buster Poindexter, accompanied by The Uptown Horns, performing a mixture of jazz, lounge, calypso, and novelty songs, and appearing as part of the house band on the television program Saturday Night Live. As Poindexter he scored his first hit song, "Hot Hot Hot," which in an interview on National Public Radio's Fresh Air he called "the bane of my existence," due to its pervasive popularity. "Hot Hot Hot" was initially written and recorded by Montserratian Soca artist Arrow. As Poindexter, Johansen often appeared with his band, The Banshees of Blue. Early Poindexter releases combined an eclectic selection of covers with Johansen's own compositions. Johansen went on to issue Buster Poindexter's Happy Hour, a CD of songs thematically linked by their subject matter—alcohol. It is his most jazz-influenced release to date. It was followed by Buster Poindexter's Spanish Rocket Ship, a synthesis of R&B, calypso and Latin jazz.


One of the earliest acting roles for Johansen was a small role of a grocery delivery boy in the 1967 movie "Guess Who's Coming to Dinner" starring Katharine Hepburn, Spencer Tracy and Sidney Poitier. Johansen is billed under the name of "Skip Martin". Johansen acted in several films during the 1980s and 1990s, and in 2000,[4] had a brief role on the HBO drama Oz. He appeared in the television series The Adventures of Pete & Pete in the episode "On Golden Pete", in which he played a park ranger. He appeared in the Muppet Television segment of an episode of The Jim Henson Hour. Among his more prominent roles are that of the wisecracking Ghost of Christmas Past in Scrooged as well as the part of 'Looney' in the movie, Let It Ride, playing opposite Richard Dreyfuss. He starred opposite Hulk Hogan and Sherman Hemsley in Mr. Nanny, and co-starred with John C. McGinley in the movie Car 54, Where Are You?, based on the television series. He can be seen in the Jim White documentary film Searching for the Wrong Eyed Jesus in which he sings a version of Geeshie Wiley's "Last Kind Words" while in a motel room. He also had a supporting role with Mick Jagger and Emilio Estevez in the movie Freejack. He also played Halston (a hired hitman) in the anthology film Tales from the Darkside: The Movie (1990), in the segment "The Cat From Hell".

Later solo career

Johansen performing in Toronto concert, Feb 18, 2008

Johansen then turned to country blues with his group, The Harry Smiths. The group was named as a tribute to Harry Everett Smith, who compiled the Anthology of American Folk Music, several songs of which were covered by the band. Johansen's second album with the Harry Smiths is titled Shaker.

In 2004 Johansen reunited with Sylvain Sylvain and Arthur Kane, of the New York Dolls. Owing to the success of the tour, in 2006 the New York Dolls released One Day It Will Please Us to Remember Even This, their first album in nearly thirty years. It was critic Robert Christgau's choice for album of the year.[5] In 2009 the band released "'Cause I Sez So" and in 2011 "Dancing Backward in High Heels".

Johansen hosts a weekly show, David Johansen's Mansion of Fun, on Sirius Satellite Radio while continuing to write and perform. Featuring music "from the jungles of Africa to the Bayou of Louisiana, and from Duke Ellington to Phil Spector to Billy Joe Shaver, the show is all over the musical map," truly free-form and eclectic. Currently, the show airs on channel 30, The Loft.

In October 2007, Johansen participated in "The Staten Island Composers Project," featuring work by three musicians who call the island home: Johansen; Adagio scored mostly for strings, is called "Mara Dreams the Moon Gate of Uncommon Beauty." Inspired by The Moon Gate of Uncommon Beauty, a round portal between two rockscapes in the Chinese Scholar's Garden at the Staten Island Botanical Garden. In September 2009, he appeared on Anthony Bourdain: No Reservations, the Travel Channel TV program, in which he toured Staten Island with the program's host.

In addition to his own albums, Johansen contributed songs to the soundtracks of the films Times Square and The Aviator ("Flowers of the City" and "Ain't Cha Glad" respectively) and guests on About Them Shoes, a CD by veteran blues man Hubert Sumlin. Another non-album track of his, "Johnsonius", appears on the 1984 compilation A Diamond Hidden in the Mouth of a Corpse and "The Rope (The Let Go Song)", a track originally recorded during the sessions for his eponymous first album, and published on the B-side of the single, "Funky But Chic", a song that was performed by the original New York Dolls before breaking up.

An artist noted for his musical unpredictability and versatility, Johansen has been a consistent blues enthusiast since the earliest days of the Dolls, with covers of songs by Bo Diddley and Sonny Boy Williamson among their earliest numbers. The 2006 Dolls CD Private World : The Complete Early Studio Demos 1972/3 featured the Dolls performing songs by Otis Redding, Gary US Bonds, Chuck Berry, The Shangri-Las, and Muddy Waters, in addition to versions of songs from their two Mercury albums. Also featured on the CD was a previously unreleased Dolls number, "Endless Party".

During a career that has seen many changes, Johansen has worked consistently with certain musicians, including Sylvain Sylvain, drummer Tony Machine (formerly an agent who worked for Leber & Krebs, a member of the New York Dolls from 1975 until 1977, and a fixture in many David Johansen groups and throughout the Buster Poindexter period) and Brian Koonin, guitarist and banjo player with Buster Poindexter and The Harry Smiths, as well as keyboard player with the New York Dolls for the first reunion gig and the One Day It Will Please Us To Remember Even This CD and tour.

Personal life

David is currently married to Mara Hennessey, and is the stepfather of Leah Victoria Hennessey, lead singer of the band Make Out.


New York Dolls albums


Buster Poindexter albums

David Johansen and the Harry Smiths albums

Video performances

Compilation albums


  1. ^ a b Antonia, Nina (February 2006), The New York Dolls: Too Much Too Soon, Omnibus Press, pp. 23–24,  
  2. ^ "David Johansen Biography (1950?-)". January 9, 1950. Retrieved 2013-06-15. 
  3. ^,,20098147,00.html
  4. ^
  5. ^ "2006: Dean's List". Robert Christgau. February 14, 2007. Retrieved 2013-06-15. 

Further reading

  • Jacobson, Mark (September 20, 2002), "The Icon: Doll Face", New York Magazine .
  • Rosen, Richard J. (July 2000), "Rick Visits . . . David Johansen", Stereophile .
  • Rollins, Henry (September 2006), "David Johansen", Interview  .
  • Steven MorrisseyThe New York Dolls, Babylon Books, Manchester, 1981

External links

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