‘No one ever played like him’

Following the death of notable Los Angeles multi-instrumentalist David Lindley on March 3 at the age of 78, his longtime collaborator Jackson Browne shared his thoughts in a heartbreaking statement shared with Billboard.

The talented musician — whose guitar and violin skills made him a go-to collaborator for such icons as Browne, Dolly Parton, Bob Dylan, Bruce Springsteen, Rod Stewart and others — had been ill for several months, according to the newspaper. Los Angeles Times. A cause of death was not given.

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Read Browne’s full tribute to Lindley in his own words below, as he reflects on the history of their amazing personal and professional relationship, and the qualities he will always remember about his late friend.

David Lindley, the guitarist, lap steel and violinist who brought his personality and inspiration to so many of my songs, passed away on March 3rd. The outpouring of love and widespread acknowledgment of his mastery was very moving. I want to join the thunderous chorus of appreciation for his gifts, but nothing I write seems good enough. Words have never been enough to describe what David Lindley has brought to a song.

I first played with David in a dressing room at the Troubadour in 1969. My friend Jimmy Fadden from the Nitty Gritty Dirt Band had brought him over to say hello and pointed out that David had brought his fiddle, saying he’d probably sit down if I asked him. I already knew him from the band Kaleidoscope, whose first album, Side Trips, was one of my favorite records.

We started playing my song These Days and my world changed. His playing was so emotional and immediate – it captivated me and everyone there. It didn’t matter that he had never heard the song before. What he played made it more emotional and real than it had ever sounded in the years I played it alone.

David was playing in England with Terry Reid when I made my first album. When he came back, I tried to put together a tour band with him, but it wasn’t as good as it was with just the two of us. I decided we would tour that way, as a duo, despite having a single on the charts that required drums, bass and congas to play well. We haven’t even played it. We played a lot of songs I had written up to that point, some old songs we both knew and songs friends had written. I did eventually bond with him, and it was a rich and varied musical environment. We co-headlined a national tour with Bonnie Raitt. That was the band on my third album, Late For The Sky.

David is a very big part of me – who I became and who I remain. No one ever played like him. In my later bands, after David left to form El Rayo – X, we played the song structure more or less based on what he had played, but it was, and still is, up to the players to create their own Lindley nature. Good luck! It’s very good to go for it. He didn’t play the same every time. He was always exploring, always hearing something new. Always in the now.

David’s musical interests were so varied and his genius so evident that he attracted and played with many of the great artists of our time. Ry Cooder, Linda Ronstadt, Graham Nash and David Crosby, Warren Zevon, Bonnie Raitt, James Taylor, Bruce Springsteen. But it was his band, El Rayo – X, who became the rich and fertile environment that gave him free rein to develop and mix his influences, creating the unique synthesis that will be known now and forever as David Lindley.

With Henry Kaiser, David continued the exploration of world music he had begun in Kaleidoscope. I am grateful to Henry for posting his Requiem for David Lindley, and for all the other posts and clips on the internet that testify to the many different cultures David navigated and weaved them into one world.

My own world is shattered by David’s passing. He was my friend and my teacher. It was with great pleasure and assurance that I revisited our special bond over the years. I guess I thought he would always be there.

I’ve been struggling to write and post anything for the past two weeks. It was hard to start and it’s hard to finish I think because I don’t want to let him go. David was kind to everyone and so funny. Unable to utter a dishonest word or play a dishonest note. There will be tribute concerts and certainly a documentary about him. There will be ways we can continue to celebrate his life. And we all know there will never be another David Lindley.

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