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Singer/Songwriter J.J. Cale Dies (74)

Jul 29, 2013

J.J. Cale, whose songs became hits for the likes of Eric Clapton and Lynyrd Skynyrd, has died at age 74 from a heart attack, his management agency's website announced. Cale died at about 8 p.m. Friday at Scripps Hospital in La Jolla, California.

In 1971, Cale, who was born and raised in Oklahoma, released his debut album, Naturally, while he was already in his 30's. He won a Grammy in 2006 for The Road to Escondido, recorded with Clapton.

But he was always best known as a songwriter for other musicians. His songs "After Midnight" and "Cocaine" became hits for Clapton, while Lynyrd Skynyrd made "Call Me The Breeze" famous. Johnny Cash, Santana and The Allman Brothers were also among those who covered Cale's songs.

In a 2009 interview with NPR, Cale spoke about the moment he realized he'd made it in the music business. Eric Clapton had recorded "After Midnight:" "....and I heard it on the radio, and I went, 'Oh, boy, I'm a songwriter now. I'm not an engineer or an elevator operator,' " he said.

Speaking to All Things Considered host Melissa Block, Cale said as he got older, his songwriting moved to a more mature place. "I used to write more about sex, drugs and rock 'n' roll. I don't do that quite as much as I used to, and it's a little bit more 'old man' philosophy," he said.

Freddy King, Bobby Bland and Captain Beefheart also covered J.J. Cale songs.

"Basically, I'm just a guitar player that 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."