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When Ray Davies Was Shot in New Orleans

Ray Davies
Scott Gries, Getty Images

Like many British rockers of his generation, Ray Davies has a big crush on America. His love of blues, country, jazz and a number of other genres helped him find his musical muse again during a trip to New Orleans in 2004. However, the famous city also gave him something else: a bullet wound in his leg.

On Jan. 5, 2004, the Kinks frontman and his girlfriend, Suzanne Despies, were taking a casual walk down the street near the French Quarter when a car pulled up along side them. A young man got out, and demanded Despies’ purse. She handed it over without any resistance, but a kind of boldness bubbled up inside of Davies that made him chase down the thief with the goal of retrieving his girlfriend’s purse.

The robber shot Davies, got in the car, and drove off. Davies was rushed to the hospital for treatment, and while his injuries weren’t life-threatening, the incident had a powerful effect on him. He chronicled the episode in his 2013 book Americana: The Kinks, the Riff, the Road: The Story, and spoke quite extensively about the incident during the book tour that followed.

What’s interesting is comparing Davies’ account in his book with a report in the New Orleans newspaper. Davies account is filtered through the pain of a broken femur, the haze of morphine, and astonishment of the hospital staff’s lack of professionalism and selfishness. (A radiologist asked Davies for his autograph after showing him an X-ray of his leg.) The Times-Picayune report, meanwhile, details how Davies’ alleged assailant Kawan Johnson was never brought to trial. Rather Johnson’s cousin, Jerome Berra (who was the driver of the getaway car) was charged twice.

Both times, the case was dismissed because Davies failed to appear in court to testify. Davies claims that he was notified of the trial only days before he was asked to appear, and couldn’t make the trip from London. Whatever the details of the failed trials, it seems that despite claims to pursue the case until justice was served, Davies let the matter pass.

Berra and Johnson were free men, and Davies claims his assailant later fled Louisiana and was living in another state.

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