Originally influenced by Mick Jagger and by Rob Tyner of MC5, David Johansen began his career as the singer of the protopunk band the New York Dolls in the early '70s. Johansen wrote the bulk of the material for the band, along with guitarist Johnny Thunders. Although the group released two albums, New York Dolls (1973) and Too Much Too Soon (1974), it failed to earn much commercial success. After the dissolution of the final Dolls lineup in 1977, Johansen embarked on a solo career, performing frequently with Sylvain Sylvain. His first two solo albums, David Johansen (1978) and In Style (1979), contained numerous standout tracks, and a number of cuts eventually associated with the Dolls, including "Frenchette" and "Funky But Chic," actually first appeared on Johansen's solo albums.
In the late '80s, belated commercial success came Johansen's way under the pseudonym Buster Poindexter, appearing as part of the house band on 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. Johansen would issue a number of albums under the Poindexter alias, spanning a wide gamut of stylistic diversity, from the jazz-tinged Buster's Happy Hour (1994) to the R&B fusion record Buster's Spanish Rocket Ship (1997).
After the success of Poindexter, in the late '90s Johansen turned his attention in yet another direction, this time to country blues with the release of David Johansen and the Harry Smiths (2000). After releasing a second album in a similar vein (2002's Shaker), he reunited with the living New York Dolls members in 2005, releasing a reunion album, One Day It Will Please Us to Remember Even This, in 2006. 2009's Cause I Sez So saw the band reunite with Todd Rungren, the producer of the Dolls' 1973 debut. The band's latest release, Dancing Backward in High Heels (2011), returns to the power-pop sound of the '60s in a sort of retrospective on Johansen's entire career. In addition to his work with the new edition of the Dolls, he continues to host David Johansen's Mansion of Fun, a weekly radio show on Sirius.