Music/Popular Culture

RIP JJ Cale: a brief remembrance

JJ Cale is dead at 74.

Many years ago I worked as creative and production director at a radio station. Cale, on tour, was scheduled to play a local venue and that venue, one of our clients, wanted to run a series of spots promoting the appearance.

Simple enough. These kinds of ads were fairly boilerplate – you developed maybe 15 seconds of copy with the whos, whens, wheres and so forth, and intercut it with 15 seconds of clips from the artist’s most famous tunes. Which is what I did, obviously making generous use of “After Midnight” and “Cocaine.”

Shortly after the ad began airing the owner of the station loomed into my office, wondering what the hell I was thinking. Ummm. What? We’re a family station (which was bullshit, but never mind) and you’re promoting drug use! Get that off the air.

I had absofuckinglutely no idea what he was talking about. You have to understand something. I have worked with and for some bad people in my career, but this guy was without question the most evil, fourth-rate, stupid piece of shit in the lot. If you put a gun to my head and told me say something nice about him, the best I could do is that since he was such a fat bastard, when he died he’d provide nourishment for a greater than average number of worms.

Turns out the problem was “Cocaine.” His dumb ass thought it was a pro-drug song. Really?

If you wanna get down, down on the ground; cocaine.

No, seriously?

If your thing is gone and you wanna ride on; cocaine.
Don’t forget this fact, you can’t get it back; cocaine.
She don’t lie, she don’t lie, she don’t lie; cocaine.

Okay, I can see that if you weren’t born with enough intelligence to process subtlety and nuance you might miss that it was an anti-cocaine song, but how do you turn it into an advocacy tune?

Unless, you know, you’re only listening closely enough to make out one word and that’s all you need.

I was forced to recut the promo and for the remainder of my brief time at the station was probably regarded as some kind of back-alley drug dealer and perhaps even pimp. No, wait – if he’d thought I was a pimp he’d probably have wanted to know if I could hook him up for a discount.


Sorry. Apologies for the ranting. JJ Cale was one of the great ones and he never got a fraction of the credit he deserved. It’s a shame that his death calls to my mind that particular scumnozzle.

Thanks for everything, JJ. Ride on.

4 replies »

  1. Amigo, before you continue your rant, know that most people who listen to that song here blah blah blah blah blah blah, blah blah blah blah, cocaine. They ARE NOT listening to the words. Years after I first hear a song, at times, I process the words for the first time and am amazed at what I was missing. Chill, brother.

  2. I heard this on Saturday. He was from Tulsa, which is where I went to elementary school in the 1970s, so he was always a favorite.

  3. I am sorry that you can not express something more significant about JJ other than the what the song Cocaine is about. He was a unique musical voice and a great understated player. I was fortunate to see him live 4 times over the years. His mix of jazz country and rocknroll was eclectic and very tasty. RIP

    • I don’t want to be misunderstood here. My point is certainly not denigrate a marvelous musician and songwriter. It’s more about the idiots of the world who drag talented artists down. I wish I had gotten to see Cale in concert and I envy you those four shows.