Grammy-winning musician JJ Cale, who was best known for writing timeless hits for Eric Clapton, died on Friday at age 74, according to his website. Cale suffered a heart attack and passed away at Scripps Hospital in La Jolla, Calif.
Cale may not have been a household name on par with the many famous musicians he performed with, and wrote for, over the years, but his blues-drenched influence on the classic rock of the 1970s is as undeniable as it is indelible. Early in his career, Cale toured with the Grand Ole Opry road company before heading west to Los Angeles, where he recorded his song “After Midnight.” It was merely a B-side at the time, but years later Eric Clapton would turn the song into his first solo hit. Clapton also later covered Cale’s doom-soaked ode to — or cautionary tale about — the ’70s drug of choice, “Cocaine”. Decades later, in 2007, the Cale and Clapton team would win a Grammy for their collaboration on The Road to Escondido.
Artists as varied as Lynyrd Skynyrd, Santana, and Johnny Cash all covered Cale’s songs over the years — the ultimate tribute to a musician who preferred to stay in the background and let his songs speak for him.