Music

Grammy-winning songwriter JJ Cale has died at 74

July 27, 2013 at 10:35 AM ET

Grammy-winning musician and songwriter JJ Cale, perhaps best known for writing Eric Clapton's hits "Cocaine" and "After Midnight," died Friday at age 74 after suffering a heart attack.

"We've lost a great artist and a great person tonight," a statement on his Facebook page read. The page said there are no immediate plans for a memorial service, but urged fans to consider a donation to their local animal shelter.

Cale was well-respected by musicians. Clapton told Vanity Fair magazine that Cale was the living person he most admired, and singer Neil Young said, "Of all the players I ever heard, it's gotta be Hendrix and JJ Cale who are the best electric guitar players."

Born in Oklahoma in 1938, Cale became one of the originators of the Tulsa Sound, a mix of rockabilly, country, rock 'n' roll, jazz and blues.

He left Oklahoma for Los Angeles as a young man, and was on the verge of giving up his struggle to make it in the music business in 1970 when Clapton recorded his song "After Midnight," and later "Cocaine."

Cale then released his own first album, "Naturally," in 1972, including his own version of "After Midnight." The album would bring him his only Top 100 hit, "Crazy Mama," which reached No. 22 on the Billboard charts. He continued to release solo albums until 2009, and can be heard on Clapton's new album, "Old Sock," released in March.

"I remember when I made my first album, I was 32 or 33 years old and I thought I was way too old then," Cale said in an interview on his website. "When I see myself doing this at 70, I go, ‘What am I doing? I should be layin' down in a hammock.'"

In 2008, "After Midnight" was nominated to be the official rock song of the state of Oklahoma, but lost out to The Flaming Lips' "Do You Realize?"

Cale's songs were also released by such famous names as Johnny Cash, Lynyrd Skynyrd, and The Allman Brothers.

In 2008, he and Clapton won the Grammy for best contemporary blues album for the 2006 release, "The Road to Escondido." That album was certified gold for selling more than 500,000 units. Cale said on his website that he was perhaps prouder of his engineering and production work on the award-winning album than his performance.

"I think it goes back to me being a recording mixer and engineer. Because of all the technology now you can make music yourself and a lot of people are doing that now," he said. "I started out doing that a long time ago and I found when I did that I came up with a unique sound."

It never bothered him, he said on his site, that many people didn't know his name. "What's really nice is when you get a check in the mail," he said. "(Fame) elevates your ego to the point where you start believing your own (expletive)."

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