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Singer and songwriter JJ Cale passes away

Singer and songwriter JJ Cale passes away

THE singer-songwriter JJ Cale has passed away at the age of 74.

Born John Weldon Cale in Oklahoma City, he started using ‘JJ’ in order to avoid confusion with another similar named performer. Brought up in Tulsa, he went on to develop what became known as the Tulsa Sound — a laid-back blend of country, blues and rockabilly.

His early years in the music industry were far from easy and he contemplated abandoning it as a career on several occasions. After initially failing to make much of an impression with producers in Nashville in the early sixties he returned to Tulsa and was contemplating a career-change when an old friend called and persuaded him to move to Los Angeles, where he started getting work as a session musician.

In 1967, Mr. Cale recorded his first album, A Trip Down The Sunset Strip, with The Leathercoated Minds. As well as writing some of the songs, he also co-produced the album.

As a performer he had two major ‘flaws’ which could have endangered his route to fame — he hated touring (thanks in part to a fear of flying) and wasn’t particularly  interested in fame. He saw songwriting as his main strength and it was the decision by Eric Clapton — whom he had met while on a tour in 1969 — to cover his song After Midnight that was to produce a major turning point in his career. 

Clapton’s recording became a Top 20 hit in the U.S. and had the added bonus of landing Mr. Cale a recording contract. He released his debut solo album, Naturally, in 1972 and followed it up with Okie, two years later. Fans liked his throaty drawl delivery and great guitar playing, and he was soon building a strong following. 

Eric Clapton then delivered another career boost by covering his song Cocaine. The pair played a concert together in Britain in the mid-70s. They would eventually record a Grammy Award-winning album together (The Road To Esondido, 2006).

Mr. Cale was beginning to have an influence on a number of other singers and musicians. Among those to record his songs were Santana, Tom Petty and Lynyrd Skynyrd, while Mark Knopfler sited him as one of his favourite musicians.

After a rather barren 1980s, he released three albums in the 90’s and after a long break returned with To Tulsa And Back in 2004 and Roll On in 2009, which was to be his final album.

News of Mr. Cale’s death was released by his website. A statement revealed he had passed away at a hospital in La Jolla, Califonia, after suffering a heart attack. The statement ended by adding that the singer-songwriter had been a great lover of animals and if fans liked they could remember him by making a donation to their favourite local animal shelter.

To see footage of JJ Cale singing After Midnight, click here.

To see JJ Cale singing The Breeze, click here.

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