J.J. Cale has long been one of the most overlooked musicians and songwriters in the country. But while mainstream music fans may not be familiar with the Oklahoma-born guitarist, other artists certainly are.
Cale is a Grammy Award winner, and his work has been covered by some of the biggest names in the business, including Carlos Santana, Lynyrd Skynyrd, Kansas and Widespread Panic.
But no Cale song has gotten more acclaim than “Cocaine,” a song he wrote and recorded, and which was later covered with great success by Eric Clapton. Clapton, by the way, also covered Cale’s tune “After Midnight” and others. Clapton once described his attachment to the song, noting that it is typically misunderstood by fans – it’s actually an anti-drug song.
Cale himself said he started writing the song as a jazz tune, but later changed gears and gave it more of a rock/country feel which was the foundation for Clapton’s later version.
As with any great song, Clapton has hardly been the only one to cover it. In fact, one of my favorite versions comes from the Scottish rock band Nazareth, probably best known for their hit version of “Love Hurts” and, to hard rock fans, for their tune “Hair of the Dog.” They take a very different approach to “Cocaine” than Cale and Clapton did.
So, check out the three versions below.
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