JJ Cale’s music is undoubtedly better known than his life – but then, perhaps that’s the way the relaxed, retiring Oklahoma native liked it.
Changing his name to avoid confusion with The Velvet Underground’s John Cale, the guitarist first made an impression as part of Tulsa’s roots scene. An advancement from the 60s folk resurgence, musicians such as The Gap Band, Elvin Bishop and of course JJ Cale himself would leaf through the catalogues of country, R&B, rockabilly and more.
A noted songwriter, JJ Cale’s debut album ‘Naturally’ was released in 1972 and made an immediate impression on his peers. Despite his relative obscurity, the material would be covered by Eric Clapton (‘After Midnight’) and Lynyrd Skynyrd (‘Call Me The Breeze’).
Although essentially retrospective in nature, ‘Naturally’ was accidentally groundbreaking: unable to afford session fees, JJ Cale opted to use primitive drum machines, lending the album an intimate atmosphere.
With songs such as ‘Cocaine’ becoming rock staples, JJ Cale flirted on the fringes of the mainstream. Yet the songwriter would remain his own man, notably refusing to appear on Dick Clark’s Bandstand unless he was able to perform live.
Writing, recording and touring to the last, a small note appeared on JJ Cale’s website over the weekend announcing his death. It’s humble, quite simple style is perhaps an apt way to end any discussion of his work.
JJ Cale passed away at 8:00 pm on Friday July 26 at Scripps Hospital in La Jolla, CA.
The legendary singer / songwriter had suffered a heart attack.
There are no immediate plans for services.
His history is well documented at JJCale.com, rosebudus.com/cale, and in the documentary, To Tulsa And Back.
Donations are not needed but he was a great lover of animals so, if you like, you can remember him with a donation to your favorite local animal shelter.
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