Even though they really only enjoyed a five-year run in their heyday, New York City's New York Dolls made an indelible impact on rock, glam, and punk music. The group's roots were sowed when guitarist Sylvain Sylvain (real name Sylvain Mizrahi) and drummer Billy Murcia began playing in a local group called the Pox in 1986. After the Pox split, the duo recruited bassist Johnny Thunders (real name John Genzale, Jr.), and, after a few more line-up reshuffling, the band settled on Sylvain, Thunders, Murcia, singer David Johansen, and bassist Arthur "Killer" Kane.
Controversy, drug abuse, and wild partying were staples of the New York Dolls, and tragedy struck early for the band. After they were invited to open for Rod Stewart, Billy Murcia passed out and drowned, his life ended at age 21. The group pressed on, quickly replacing him with Jerry Nolan. The Dolls crafted their self-titled debut album in 1973. Though the album wasn't a huge success (it hit No. 116 on the Billboard 200) at first, it is now seen as a classic and was rated by Rolling Stone as the 213th greatest album of all time.
Unfortunately, the New York Dolls would only release one more album before they split in 1975. Their aptly-named Too Much Too Soon was released in the summer of 1974, and, while it was popular among Dolls fans, it was the beginning of the end for the volatile band. On their subsequent tour, Nolan and Thunders quit, and drugs and in-fighting were tearing the band apart. The New York Dolls called it quits in 1976.
The members participated in various new bands and solo albums, but none of them sniffed the success that they tasted with the New York Dolls. Tragedy has continued to befall the group, as Johnny Thunders died in New Orleans of a heroin overdose at the age of 38 in 1991. Some believe that Thunders was murdered over a drug deal, but it was never investigated as a homicide. Drummer Jerry Nolan also died young, succumbing to a stroke in 1992, aged 45. Arthur Kane was the last high-profile Dolls casualty, as he died on tour in London of leukemia at age 55.
The New York Dolls reformed in 2004 and continue to tour and release albums to this day with David Johansen and Sylvain Sylvain as the only remaining members. They remain one of the most influential bands of the era, influencing groups as diverse as Guns 'N Roses, the Smiths, REM, Kiss, and the Ramones.