JJ Cale, songwriter behind Cocaine and After Midnight, dies aged 74

Guitarist who wrote tunes for others was, according to Eric Clapton, 'one of the masters of the last three decades of music'

Renowned singer-songwriter JJ Cale, whose Cocaine and After Midnight were made famous by Eric Clapton, has died aged 74.

Cale's death was confirmed in a statement on his official website, which said: "JJ Cale passed away at 8pm on Friday 26 July at Scripps Hospital in LA Jolla, CA. The legendary singer-songwriter had suffered a heart attack. There are no immediate plans for services."

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The Grammy Award-winning artist was noted as the originator of the so-called "Tulsa sound", a form which drew influences from blues, country, rockabilly and jazz. As a performer, his biggest hit was Crazy Mama, which peaked at No 22 on the US Billboard Hot 100. But it his skills as a songwriter that gained him a permanent place in popular music history, as he wrote a string of songs that were made more famous by artists including Clapton, Santana, Lynyrd Skynyrd and Tom Petty.

"Basically, I'm just a guitar player that figured out I wasn't ever gonna be able to buy dinner with my guitar playing, so I got into songwriting, which is a little more profitable business," Cale is quoted as saying on his website.

Born in 1938 in Oklahoma City and raised in Tulsa, Cale's initial foray into the music industry was as a sound engineer. His career as a songwriter was encouraged by Clapton, who recorded a version of After Midnight in 1970. The British blues guitarist went on to cover a series of Cale-penned tunes, including Travelin Light, I'll Make Love to You Anytime and Cocaine. Others followed suit, with Maria Muldaur and Captain Beefheart among those to add Cale songs to their set lists.

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Clapton, in an interview, called him "one of the masters of the last three decades of music". But despite such respect within the industry, Cale never achieved similar levels of fame as a performer. Asked in an interview on his website if it bothered him that while people might have loved his songs, they may not have known his name, he said: "No, it doesn't bother me. What's really nice is when you get a check in the mail."


Matt Williams in New York

The GuardianTramp

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