Virtuosic maxi-instrumentalist BORN 1944
IF THE CONTRAPTION in David Lindley’s hands had strings, the mutton-chopped, long-haired hippy decked out in polyester shirts would inevitably master it: guitar (notably slide), lap steel, cittern, banjo, upright bass, saz, mandolin, violin, charango, oud, zither, dobro and even more obscure axes like the cümbüş and the Hardanger fiddle – the national instrument of Norway.
As a California kid, he became an ace bluegrass banjoist and fiddler and in 1966 with Chris Darrow and others, co-founded Kaleidoscope, the Los Angeles rock group that blended Middle Eastern sounds and psychedelia. While commercial nonentities, the band were underground heroes and played on Songs Of Leonard Cohen
– the songwriter’s debut. After Kaleidoscope’s dissolution, Lindley joined rock shouter Terry Reid’s band in the UK for a couple of years, followed by a return to the States to back up Jackson Browne from 1972 through 1980. In addition to his instrumental multiplicity, he added tenor harmonies – that’s his falsetto on Browne’s popular cover of Stay that wraps Running On Empty.
Lindley formed his own band El Rayo-X in 1981. They released their eponymously titled debut and became a smart-rock fave that highlit the leader’s chipmunk vocals, wacky wit, eclectic chops, melodic hooks and global rhythms encompassing ska, reggae, zydeco, Tex-Mex and Cajun. In addition to also touring as a solo act variously accompanied by percussionists Hani Naser and Wally Ingram, he became an in-demand session man with Bob Dylan, Linda Ronstadt, Warren Zevon, Crosby & Nash, Ry Cooder, Rod Stewart, Curtis Mayfield, Dolly Parton, Iggy Pop, John Prine, Ben Harper, Springsteen, James Taylor, Joe Walsh, Henry Kaiser and others.
“His playing was so emotional and immediate,” longtime collaborator Browne posted in a eulogy, recalling the first time he and Lindley played together in 1969. “It cast a spell over me and everyone there.”