David Roger Johansen (born January 9, 1950) is an American rock, protopunk, blues and pop singer, as well as a songwriter and actor. He was a member of the seminal protopunk band The New York Dolls and also achieved commercial success under the pseudonym Buster Poindexter. Originally influenced by Mick Jagger and by Rob Tyner of MC5, 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 in the protopunk band the New York Dolls. The Dolls only released two albums, their self-titled debut (1973), and Too Much Too Soon (1974). The bulk of the material was written by Johansen and guitarist Johnny Thunders. The Dolls were critics’ darlings with a modest cult following, but their failure to break commercially is often attributed to their being ahead of their time
In the late 1980s, Johansen achieved a commercial breakthrough 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 life,” owing to its pervasive popularity. “Hot Hot Hot” was initially written and recorded by Montserratian-Antiguan Soca Artist Arrow. As Poindexter, Johansen often appeared with his band The Banshees of Blue. The initial Poindexter releases combined an eclectic selection of cover versions with Johansen’s own compositions. Johansen/Poindexter went on to issue Buster Poindexter’s Happy Hour, a CD of songs largely connected with alcohol. Probably his most obviously jazz-influenced release to date, it also leaned towards ’50s rock and roll. Following on from that came Buster Poindexter’s Spanish Rocket Ship, a Latin album.
Johansen then turned to the rendition of country blues with his back-up group, The Harry Smiths. The group was named in tribute to Harry Everett Smith, who compiled the Anthology of American Folk Music; “James Alley Blues” and some of the other songs covered on their eponymously titled debut come from the Anthology. Johansen’s second album with the Harry Smiths is titled Shaker. He also had a supporting role with Mick Jagger and Emilio Estevez in the movie Freejack and a supporting role as Looney in the comedy Let It Ride.
Johansen is currently touring with a re-formed version of the New York Dolls. Owing to the success of the tour, in 2006 the 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. Johansen hosts a weekly show on Sirius Satellite Radio while continuing to write and perform.
Please enjoy this 1982 video clip of David Johansen performing an Animals medley.