In the 1960s and '70s, Dr. John helped bring the music of New Orleans to new audiences by combining local sounds and bright costumes with psychedelic rock to create what was often referred to as "voodoo" music.
In the '80s and '90s, he retreated into more traditional New Orleans music and pop standards before rediscovering his own voice in the wake of Hurricane Katrina.
His latest album, "Locked Down," which was produced by the Black Keys' Dan Auerbach, is a return to the unique mixture of sounds that defined his early days.
amNewYork spoke with Dr. John as he prepared for a three-week residency at the Brooklyn Academy of Music.
How did you meet Dan Auerbach? It was spiritually correct. My granddaughter turned me on to his record, then we did a thing at Bonnaroo. After that, he came over and we started writing songs. We recorded in his studio in Nashville. He uses some old-school [stuff] that's way older than him.
What do you hope people take away from the residency? It's vital to me that they get a different picture of what the music is. People have perceptions about things. I think if you can get some clarity, that opens the door to the next thing, which is to see that this is a very unmanageable planet. I want to let the truth be known about what's happening in Louisiana. We lost all our barrier islands. This place could disappear in a second.
Is that what inspires you to keep performing? What's important to me is that I can try to tell those truths that I feel are very important for people.
Sometimes they don't get 'em, sometimes they do. ... I'm not the greatest guy to speak for anything. I'm all over the place. I feel things better than I can speak them. I try to write them into songs. That's my usefulness to this planet.
If you go: Dr. John is performing at the Brooklyn Academy of Music Thursday through Saturday, April 5-7 and 12-14. 30 Lafayette Ave., Brooklyn, 718-636-4100.
Dr. John is the second musician (after Paul Simon) to be given an artistic residency at BAM. The nine nights of concerts cover three different aspects of his career.
'A Louis Armstrong Tribute' (Thurs.-Sat.): Dr. John was born in Armstrong's neighborhood, a fact his father would point out to him constantly.
'Locked Down' (April 5-7): These shows mark the first time the full band that plays on Dr. John's new album, including Dan Auerbach, will perform the songs live.
'Funky But It's Nu Awlins' (April 12-14): New Orleans funk shows featuring guests including the Blind Boys of Alabama.