A blues guitarist considered to be among the greatest of the rock era has died. The Los Angeles Times reports that Johnny Winter died Wednesday in Switzerland at the end of a tour of Europe. He was 70.
"His death in a Zurich hotel room was confirmed by John Lappen, his public relations manager. Winter, who had emphysema, was recently diagnosed with pneumonia, Lappen said," the Times reports.
The report adds: "Over the years, Winter had battled drug and alcohol addictions that made him appear prematurely frail. In 2005, he weighed 90 pounds, but with the help of fellow musician Paul Nelson he managed to shake his drug dependencies, gain 60 pounds, and resume a vigorous touring schedule."
Nelson told the Jerusalem Post in 2013: "He's stopped drinking and he's talking to people and is more accessible. He walks out on the stage unattended now — this is huge! He was sitting down for 15 years."
The Times notes: "Winter performed from time to time with his younger brother Edgar. Both were born with albinism, a disorder that keeps the body from producing the pigments that color the skin, hair and eyes. The condition also leaves albinos with severe vision problems.
"In Beaumont, Texas, the brothers' hometown, it left Johnny feeling isolated and angry. He later said it helped him identify with African American blues musicians, whose music was kept off mainstream radio stations at the time."
In a 2010 biography, "Raisin' Cain: The Wild and Raucous Story of Johnny Winter," author Mary Lou Sullivan quotes Winter saying, in reference to himself and African American musicians: "We both had a problem with our skin being the wrong color."
Winter was inducted into the Blues Foundation Hall of Fame in 1988, becoming the first white musician to be inducted.
Here's a taste of Winter's guitar work — Johnny performs the Stones song "Jumpin' Jack Flash" in a 1974 appearance on U.K. television: