Jackson Browne Mourns ‘Genius’ Instrumentalist David Lindley: ‘No One Ever Played Like Him’

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 PartonBob DylanBruce SpringsteenRod Stewart and others — had been ill for a number of months, according to the Los Angeles Times. A cause of death was not 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, the guitarist, lap steel and fiddle player who gave his personality and his inspiration to so many of my songs, passed away on March 3rd. The outpouring of love, and the widespread recognition of his mastery has been very moving. I want to join in the resounding chorus of appreciation for his gifts, but nothing I write seems quite good enough. Words have never been enough to describe what David Lindley brought to a song.

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

We started to play my song These Days, and 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. What he was playing made it more emotional and more real than it had ever sounded in the years I had played it alone.

David was in England playing with Terry Reid when I made my first album. 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. 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 properly. We didn’t even play it. We played a lot of songs I had written up until then, some old songs we both knew, and songs friends had written. Eventually I did have a band 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 large 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 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 always exploring, always hearing something new. Always 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, Graham Nash and David Crosby, Warren Zevon, Bonnie Raitt, James Taylor, Bruce Springsteen. 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.

With Henry Kaiser, David continued the exploration of world music that he had begun in Kaleidoscope. 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 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.

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 kind to everyone, and so funny. Incapable of uttering a dishonest word, or playing a dishonest note. There will be tribute concerts, and a documentary about him, for sure. There will be ways for us to continue to celebrate his life. And we all know there will never be another David Lindley.

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