Remembering David Lindley, Multi-Instrumentalist With Jackson Browne’s Band

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David Lindley and Jackson Browne in 2006

David Lindley, the multi-instrumentalist who was the featured accompanist for Jackson Browne’s band throughout the ’70s and performed on recordings by Linda Ronstadt, Graham Nash and David Crosby, Rod Stewart, and Warren Zevon, among others, died March 3, 2023. The news of his passing at age 78 was shared by many acquaintances on social media. The cause of death was not revealed but it’s known that Lindley had faced several serious medical issues. His daughter, Rosanne Lindley, announced in December that he had been hospitalized with pneumonia and also had kidney issues. A medical fundraiser had recently been started on his behalf.

Throughout the ’80s, while continuing to collaborate with many other musicians, Lindley fronted his own band, El Rayo-X. From his official biography: Lindley performed music that redefined the word “eclectic,” long championing the concept of world music. The David Lindley electro-acoustic performance effortlessly combined American folk, blues and bluegrass traditions with elements from African, Arabic, Asian, Celtic, Malagasy and Turkish musical sources. Lindley incorporated an incredible array of stringed instruments, including but not limited to, Kona and Weissenborn Hawaiian lap steel guitar, Turkish saz and chumbus, Middle Eastern oud and Irish bouzouki. The eye-poppingly clad “Mr. Dave’s” uncanny vocal mimicry and demented sense of humor made his onstage banter a highlight of the show.

Lindley was born on March 21, 1944, and grew up in southern California, first taking up the banjo as a teenager, and subsequently winning the annual Topanga Canyon banjo and fiddle contest five times as he explored the American folk music tradition. Between 1967 and 1971, Lindley founded and led the psychedelic rock band Kaleidoscope. In 1971, Lindley joined forces with Browne, serving as his most significant musical co-conspirator until 1981. He performed lap steel guitar and fiddle, and sang the falsetto on “Stay” on the 1977 tour in which Browne recorded his brilliant live-from-the-road Running On Empty album.

Two weeks after his passing, Browne posted a lengthy tribute to his friend, writing in part, “My own world is shattered by David’s passing. He was my friend and my teacher. It was with great pleasure and certainty that I revisited our special connection over the years. I guess I thought that he would always be around.”

In 1979, Lindley began working with old friend Ry Cooder on the latter’s Bop Till You Drop and The Long Riders soundtrack. Their musical collaboration continued for decades with recording projects and world tours as an acoustic duo.

In 1981, Lindley created El Rayo-X, which integrated American roots music and world beat with a heavy reggae influence. Throughout his distinguished career, Lindley was one of Hollywood’s most in-demand session musicians, working with a broad range of artists that included Bob Dylan, Dolly Parton, Bruce Springsteen & the E Street Band, and Joe Walsh.

In 1990 a chance meeting of Lindley and Jordanian-born percussionist Hani Naser led to an impromptu jam and an instant decision to take it on the road. The pair toured the world for the following six years. The duo recorded two self-released “Official Bootleg” compact discs, Live in Tokyo Playing Real Good and Live All Over the Place Playing Even Better.

Lindley and Browne reunited on stage many times over the years, including this performance of “Take It Easy” in 2006.

Related: Musicians we lost in 2023

Leland Sklar was among the many musicians who posted a tribute. “I will forever think off David and Jackson as one of the best teams I have ever played with. Both so gifted and so connected ….. so glad for all the years to have enjoyed with you both.”

Karla Bonoff wrote, “We have lost a very special soul.”

Warren Haynes wrote, “David Lindley was a true stylist and a unique voice on whatever instrument he picked up. His lap steel playing in particular was a big influence on me. I’ve always put David on a short list of major influences on my slide playing- especially on the melodic side. Often times when I’m approaching a song or solo in a major key Lindley’s influence will appear automatically. His style was so vocalesque and his sense of melody was a deep well. I think of some of those Jackson Browne songs with David that we all heard on the radio in the seventies where his solos became part of the song to the point where even non-musicians could hum along. David leaves behind a beautiful trove of music for music lovers to enjoy for centuries to come.”

Best Classic Bands Staff

5 Comments so far

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  1. RDM
    #1 RDM 4 March, 2023, 00:21

    God I love this man. So bad, so cool, so hip to the bone. Funnier than stink. I mean the shoes alone! And a pedal steel to melt your face. David, I am “crazy bout the Mercury”. Me too buddy. I will miss yo so very very much. Thank you David.

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  2. Jarmo Keranen
    #2 Jarmo Keranen 4 March, 2023, 05:41

    First time i heard of him was in the early 80’s. I saw Rockpalast concert in tv, where he played with El Rayo-X. I was stunned how good he was! Today i own all the El Rayo-X and Kaleidoscope cd’s. I also own many cd’s which he play as session musician. Thanks Mr. Dave and may you rest in peace. I will play your records as long as i live!

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  3. mick
    #3 mick 4 March, 2023, 09:04

    Damn! We will miss you. Too many cat food samwiches no doubt. He did one of the best driving songs ever, Mercury Blues. T for all the years of truly great music.

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  4. CCT5751
    #4 CCT5751 4 March, 2023, 15:33

    I saw David and El Rayo-X open up for Joe Walsh in 1981, one of my first concerts. We were really impressed, the crowd was there for Joe but everyone just ate up that opening act. Thanks for your talent and gifts to music.

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  5. Benz
    #5 Benz 4 March, 2023, 18:28

    Mr. Reggae Rhythm & Blues

    There’ll never be another like you, oh how we’ll miss you, Rock the heavens man!

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