By Christopher Scapelliti
Eric Clapton has often called JJ Cale one of the most important figures in rock history. He was certainly an influence on Clapton, who covered several of Cale’s songs, including “After Midnight” and “Cocaine,” both of which became hits.
Now Clapton will honor Cale, one year after his death, with a tribute album. Titled Eric Clapton & Friends: The Breeze, An Appreciation of JJ Cale, the disc will feature 16 of Cale’s songs performed by Clapton, Mark Knopfler, John Mayer, Willie Nelson, Tom Petty, Derek Trucks and Don White. The record is slated for release on July 29 and is available for preorder.
“I would like people to tap into what JJ Cale did,” Clapton says of his decision to record the new album. “That’s the point. I’m just the messenger; I’ve always felt that that’s my job. I try to interpret things so that the public at large, or at least the people who listen to what I do, will become intrigued about where I got it from.”
Cale died July 26, 2013, leaving behind a rich legacy of music and work. A singer, songwriter, and guitarist in his own right, he was an originator of the Tulsa Sound, a mix of blues, country, rockabilly, and jazz stylings.
He was unknown and nearly finished with the music business when Clapton cut “After Midnight” in 1970, helping to bring Cale to prominence. Over the following years, his songs were covered by everyone from Waylon Jennings and Bobby Bare to Kansas and Lynyrd Skynyrd, who had a hit with his song “Call Me the Breeze.”
Cale grew up in Tulsa, Oklahoma, and cited Chet Atkins, Les Paul, and Chuck Berry as some of his earliest influences. He was often quoted as saying, “In trying to imitate them, I missed it. And I came up with my own kinda thing.” He began playing the local Tulsa club scene in the early Fifties surrounded by other natives, such as Leon Russell and David Gates, who would later find fame with Bread. After moving to Los Angeles in the mid Sixties, Cale recorded the song “After Midnight.”
Delaney Bramlett, a mutual friend of Cale’s and Clapton’s, gave Clapton a copy of the recording, and he instantly fell in love with it. Clapton recorded the track for his 1970 self-titled solo debut, and it became a chart-topping success. Although Cale had been told of the cover, he reportedly didn’t pay much attention until the song came on the radio in Tulsa.
Clapton continued to cover Cale’s songs, and the two occasionally performed together, including at Clapton’s 2004 Crossroads festival debut. Despite their long association, they didn’t collaborate until the making of their 2006 album, The Road to Escondido. At the time, Clapton said, “This is the realization of what may have been my last ambition, to work with the man whose music has inspired me for as long as I can remember.”
Eric Clapton & Friends: The Breeze, An Appreciation of JJ Cale
ALBUM TRACK LISTING
1. Call Me The Breeze (Vocals Eric Clapton)
2. Rock And Roll Records (Vocals Eric Clapton & Tom Petty)
3. Someday (Vocals Mark Knopfler)
4. Lies (Vocals John Mayer & Eric Clapton)
5. Sensitive Kind (Vocals Don White)
6. Cajun Moon (Vocals Eric Clapton)
7. Magnolia (Vocals John Mayer)
8. I Got The Same Old Blues (Vocals Tom Petty & Eric Clapton)
9. Songbird (Vocals Willie Nelson & Eric Clapton)
10. Since You Said Goodbye (Vocals Eric Clapton)
11. I’ll Be There (If You Ever Want Me) (Vocals Don White & Eric Clapton)
12. The Old Man And Me (Vocals Tom Petty)
13. Train To Nowhere (Vocals Mark Knopfler, Don White & Eric Clapton)
14. Starbound (Vocals Willie Nelson)
15. Don’t Wait (Vocals Eric Clapton & John Mayer)
16. Crying Eyes (Vocals Eric Clapton & Christine Lakeland)