An announcement on his personal website stated that JJ Cale has passed away at the age of 74 from a heart attack Friday, July 26, 2013 in Scripps Hospital in La Jolla, California.
The website statement said that there were no immediate funeral plans and that donations were not needed. It was suggested, however, that since Cale loved animals, people could remember him with a donation to their favorite animal shelter.
Cale’s music is familiar to millions of people for his song, “Cocaine,” which was covered famously by Eric Clapton in 1977. Clapton also had success with the Cale tune, “After Midnight” in 1970.
Cale tended to describe himself as a songwriter, rather than a singer. He had great success from other artists performing his songs. These include Tom Petty, Santana, Johnny Cash, The Allman Brothers Band and Lynyrd Skynyrd.
Cale was born John Weldon Cale in 1938 in Oklahoma and helped create the Tulsa Sound. This sound combined rockabilly, blues and jazz. Cale later changed his name to JJ Cale to avoid confusion with John Cale of the Velvet Underground.
He began his music career as a sound engineer even though he started playing guitar when he was 10. He was a member of the Grand Ole Opry touring company and then joined several local bands, including two with Leon Russell. After the success of, “After Midnight,” Cale recorded, “Naturally,” his first of 14 studio albums. His laid-back, mellow singing style combined with a driving rhythm brought him a loyal following.
Clapton was an early enthusiast and encouraged Cale to continue writing songs.
His writing and playing became a great influence on many artists such as Neil Young, who said of Cale, “Of all the players I have ever heard, it’s gotta be Hendrix and JJ Cale who are the best electric guitar players.”
Despite the respect in which he was held by music makers, he never achieved the same fame in the public eye. When asked on his website if this bothered him and that so many fans who know his music don’t know his name.
His reply was, “No, it doesn’t bother me. What’s really nice is when you get a check in the mail.”
In a statement on his website, Cale wrote, “Basically, I’m just a guitar player who 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.”
In 2006, Cale told the AP news service, “I’d probably be selling shoes today if it wasn’t for Eric.”
In an interview, Clapton called Cale, “one of the masters of the last three decades of music,”
Clapton worked with Cale on the 2008 album, “The Road to Escondido,” which won a Grammy award for Best Contemporary Blues Album.