Wilko: He said ‘You’ve got cancer’ and I was absolutely calm
Wilko Johnson didn’t get upset when he was told he had terminal cancer. In fact, he soon started to feel “euphoric” – and he says that feeling hasn’t worn off.
The former Dr Feelgood guitarist announced earlier this month that he has months to live. Instead of opting for chemotherapy, which will only extend his life for a few more months, he’s decided to make one more album and play a series of farewell shows.
Johnson tells The Times: “I had the analysis just before Christmas. I don’t know if the guy was an expert in telling people bad news, but he said those words: ‘You’ve got cancer,’ and I was absolutely calm. I didn’t freak out at all.”
He says he’s been “a miserable bugger” for most of his life – but that’s faded away despite the news. “I began to feel almost euphoric and the feeling hasn’t worn off,” he says. “I realise that all the things I usually worry about don’t matter.”
Rejecting painful medical procedures because they “didn’t seem like a good deal” he’s decided to throw himself into his work – and he doesn’t see anything downbeat about his run of final concerts, which started in Japan earlier this month.
“We’d finish the gigs with me singing Bye Bye Johnny and I was waving at the fans, and they were waving,” he says. “It should have been sad but it was great. Terminal cancer is in many ways a good thing for a show-off!”
Johnson isn’t convinced there’s life after death, and that’s even more reason to enjoy his remaining time on earth. “If you asked me how I feel about knowing it’s over, I would say that sometimes I’ve been feeling truly happy for the first time in my life.
“In Japan we went to this temple in Kyoto and the scene with the mountains behind was sublime.
“Normally I’d be trying to take this in as a memory. But I thought, ‘There’s no point.’ I was just in that moment completely and I felt fantastic.”
Few tickets remain for Johnson’s farewell shows during February and March.