Following the death of notable Los Angeles multi-instrumentalist David Lindley at age 78 on March 3, his long-time collaborator Jackson Browne shared his thoughts in a heartbreaking statement shared with Billboard.
The talented musician — whose guitar and fiddle skills made him a go-to collaborator for icons like Browne, Dolly Parton, Bob Dylan, Bruce Springsteen, Rod Stewart and others — had been ill for a number of months, according to the Los Angeles Times. The cause of death wasn’t provided.
Read Browne’s full tribute to Lindley below in his own words, as he recalls the history of their wonderful personal and professional relationship, and the qualities he’ll always remember of his late friend.
David Lindley, guitarist, lap steel, and fiddle player, who inspired so many of my songs and gave his personality, died on March 3. His mastery and love were deeply felt by the many who came forward to show their support. I want to share in the chorus of gratitude for his gifts. But nothing I write seems good enough. David Lindley was a true genius. Words can’t describe it.
David was the first person I saw in a Troubadour dressing room in 1969. Jimmy Fadden, a friend from the Nitty Gritty Dirt Band, had brought him to say hi. He pointed out that David was playing his fiddle with him and said he would likely sit in on my request. I knew him already from Kaleidoscope’s first album Side Trips. It was one of my favourite records.
When we began to play My song These Days, my world changed. His playing was so emotional, and immediate – it cast a spell over me and everyone there. It didn’t matter that he had never heard the song before. The song sounded more alive and authentic when he played it.
David was in England with Terry Reid when my first album was made. When he came back, I tried putting together a touring band with him, but it wasn’t as good as with just the two of us. Despite having a single on the charts, I decided that we would tour that way as a duo. We didn’t even play it. We played many songs that I had written, as well as songs that we knew and songs that our friends had written. It was an enjoyable and rich musical environment that I eventually got to have a band with him. Bonnie Raitt was our co-headliner on a national tour. It was the band that appeared on my third album Late For The Sky.
David is a very large part of me – who I became, and who I remain. He was the best player I have ever seen. In my later bands, after David left to form El Rayo – X, we would play the songs’ structure, more or less based on what he had played, but it was, and still is today, up to the players to summon their own Lindley nature. Good luck! It’s a very good thing to go for. He didn’t play the same thing each time. He was constantly exploring and learning new things. Always present in the moment.
David’s musical interests were so far ranging, and his genius so evident, he attracted and played with many of the great artists of our day. Ry Cooder, Linda Ronstadt and Graham Nash, David Crosby and David Crosby were some of his influences. But it was his band, El Rayo – X, that became the rich and fertile environment that gave him free rein to develop and mix his influences, and create the unique synthesis that will now and forever be known as David Lindley.
David continued his exploration of world music with Henry Kaiser. I’m grateful to Henry for posting his Requiem For David Lindley, and for all the other posts and clips on the internet that attest to the many different cultures David navigated, weaving them into one world.
My own world is shattered by David’s passing. He was my friend as well as my teacher. I was elated to revisit our unique connection over the years. I think I was assuming that he would always still be with me.
I’ve been struggling to write something and post it for the past two weeks. It was hard to begin, and it’s hard to conclude, I guess, because I don’t want to let him go. David was so kind and funny. Incapable of speaking dishonesty or playing dishonest notes. We will have tribute concerts and a documentary on him. There will be ways for us to continue to celebrate his life. We all know that there will never again be David Lindley.