Willy DeVille, founder of the punk group Willy DeVille and known for his blend of R&B, blues, Dixieland and traditional French Cajun ballads, has died, his publicist said Friday. He was 58.
The Oscar-nominated songwriter died at New York’s Cabrini Hospital on Thursday of pancreatic cancer, said Carol Kaye at Kayos Productions.
“The rock world has lost another one of its influential pioneers,” Kaye said.
Mink DeVille, for which DeVille was the principal songwriter, was billed as one of the most original groups on the New York punk scene after an appearance at the legendary CBGB club in Greenwich Village in the 1970s.
In 1977, the band recorded “Cabretta,” a rock and roll/rhythm and blues album with renowned producer Jack Nitzsche. Its featured song, “Spanish Stroll,” was a Top 20 hit in Britain. It was followed by the album “Return to Magenta.”
Better known in Europe than in the United States, DeVille went solo in 1980 with “Le Chat Bleu.” Recorded in Paris and influenced by his admiration for siren Edith Piaf, the album featured “This Must Be the Night” and “Just to Walk That Little Girl Home.”
His “Storybook Love,” featured in the 1987 movie “The Princess Bride,” was nominated for an Academy Award.
“Throughout his career, his musical gumbo was always layered with his deliciously gravelly soul-drenched vocals,” Kaye said.
DeVille also spent time in New Orleans and recorded his “Victory Mixture” album with Dr. John, Eddie Bo, Allen Toussaint and others.
His other albums include the soulful “Coupe de Grace” and “Where Angels Fear to Tread.” In 1985, “Sportin’ Life” featured the European hit song “Italian Shoes.”
Born in Stamford, Conn., he is survived by his wife, Nina.