Monday, July 29, 2013

Remembering the music of the one and only JJ Cale

I'm a little late when it comes to saying goodbye to JJ Cale, who died of a heart attack Friday at a California hospital at age 74.  But, better late than never.

JJ Cale was one of those songwriters who was mind-boggling when it came to taking in the body of his work through his career, and the variety of artists who covered his work.  Of course, there was Eric Clapton with "After Midnight" and "Cocaine," Lynyrd Skynyrd and Johnny Cash and the Allman Brothers boogieing to "Call Me The Breeze," Waylon Jennings and Dr, John doing "Clyde," The Band handling "Crazy Mama," Santana with "Sensitive Kind," Freddie King and Captain Beefheart on "I Got The Same Old Blues," Widespread Panic jamming to "Travelin' Light" at show after show, Kansas rockin' to "Bringing It Back" ... on and on.

JJ Cale
Yeah, JJ Cale was one of those kinds of songwriters -- someone who had a gift for telling a story through music, someone who made you just feel so laid back, someone you felt like you could party to his tunes all night long, someone who could rip your heart out through his words.

Cale seemed to have a special kinship with Clapton, who helped maybe more than any single musician to bring Cale's music to the masses.

A later video of Cale and Clapton performing together at a Crossroads show was a perfect example of how JJ came across.  As they started into a rendition of "After Midnight," there was Cale waiting for Clapton to take the lead as Clapton nudged JJ on instead with just a look and a small gesture, shaking him off, as if to say, "No, this one's yours."  Cale took it from there, looking like he meant and lived just what he wrote and performed -- a guy with the kind of looks and mannerisms you might expect to find at a smoky barroom, sitting on a stool while downing a shot and a beer.

He was one of us.  In all those songs, he was one of us.

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