JJ Cale, Songwriter of ‘Cocaine,’ Dead at 74

Pat Saperstein

JJ Cale, the musician who wrote “Cocaine” and “After Midnight” for Eric Clapton and songs for numerous other artists, died Friday of a heart attack in La Jolla, Calif. He was 74.

His agent confirmed the news to CNN.

Among the other artists who performed his laid-back songs were Santana, the Allman Brothers, Johnny Cash, Tom Petty, The Band, Captain Beefheart and Lynyrd Skynyrd, who performed Cale’s “Call Me the Breeze.”

His biggest song as a solo artist was “Crazy Mama,” from his album “Naturally,” which peaked at #22 in 1972.

He continued to work long after the early 1970s heyday of the bluesy, country-tinged rock and rollers had passed, winning a Grammy in 2006 for his album with Clapton, “The Road to Escondido.”

Born and raised in Oklahoma where he started playing music as Johnny Cale, he moved to Los Angeles in the mid-60s, where he was encouraged by Whiskey A Go Go owner Elmer Valentine to start using the initials JJ to avoid confusion with the Velvet Underground’s John Cale.

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