DAVID GREENE, HOST:

How about some music now from one of rock's most enduring performers. In his more than 50 years in music, Dr. John has played with some of the biggest stars on the planet. He's won Grammys, he's scored hits. With his growling voice and funky New Orleans piano, Dr. John's music is instantly recognizable.

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GREENE: Dr. John has seen his share of trouble. In a 1994 autobiography, the New Orleans musician writes about his youthful delinquency, a decades-long heroin addiction, and also prison time on a drug possession charge. The book is revealing in a way that his music rarely is - until now. On his new CD, Dr. John looks to his own colorful life for inspiration. The album is called "Locked Down."

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GREENE: The new album is the brain child of the 33-year-old musician Dan Auerbach. He's the singer and guitar player for the indie rock group the Black Keys and the producer of this record.

DAN AUERBACH: I've just been such a huge fan, you know? And I think he's just sort of underappreciated. And I just knew the kind of timeless quality of what he did. I just felt like, you know, if I went down and met him and if his head was anywhere were near where it used to be, that it just might be fruitful.

GREENE: And so with a vague idea for a record, Auerbach hopped a plane for New Orleans and invited the Rock and Roll Hall of Famer - whose real name happens to Mac Rebenack - to join him in the studio.

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AUERBACH: I knew that I wanted to pick the musicians. I wanted to surround him with younger guys. I wanted it to be all fresh for him. And I also wanted him to talk from the Mac Rebenack perspective, lyrically. I didn't want him to talk from the Dr. John perspective.

GREENE: Auerback says Dr. John is a stage name. Mac Rebenack is a real person.

DR. JOHN: And he wanted me to say something, like, tell my story and my life in some kind of way.

GREENE: That's the voice of Dr. John.

JOHN: He put this record together so it kind of started at one place and just kept going through chunks of stuff that I experienced in my life.

GREENE: And so Dr. John wrote about prison, a doomed romance, drugs. It's pretty dark stuff. But as the album progresses, the songs become more uplifting. One standout deals deals with his effort to reconcile with his children.

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JOHN: I been trying to clean up my act with my children for a long time. And I pretty much got them all talking to me now. And they accept me as a humanoid again.

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GREENE: Auerbach says Dr. John has never written something so personal.

AUERBACH: And I really pushed him to go there. And he did. And I think he felt really good about it.

GREENE: Dr. John's new record is called "Locked Down." And to hear more of the songs, you can visit nprmusic.org.

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GREENE: You're listening to MORNING EDITION from NPR News.

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