17 December 2016 - RY COODER


G'day folks,

Welcome to the world of Ry Cooder. Ryland Peter "Ry" Cooder is an American musician, songwriter, film score composer, and record producer.

There’s a good chance you own an album containing contributions from this journeyman multi-instrumentalist. And yet, you could easily walk by him on the street without knowing you just brushed shoulders with a legend. In addition to his countless contributions as one of rock’s top hired guns, he has lent his own name to the proliferation of countless international folk forms.

Ry Cooder was a musical prodigy, learning to play the guitar almost as soon as he could walk. Cooder graduated from Santa Monica High School and studied at Reed College before ultimately departing to pursue music. This was a fortuitous time to be a gifted slide guitarist in L.A. The scene was bursting with art, music, and creativity. Many a future legend was cultivated under the warm Southern California sun, beginning with Taj Mahal. Cooder formed a prescient blues-rock combo called The Rising Sons with the future bluesmaster in 1966.

His next collaboration came when he joined the outlandish Captain Beefheart (formerly of Frank Zappa’s Mothers of Invention) for his 1967 debut. Safe As Milk is a landmark recording of the gonzo subgenre, an album whose guttural eccentricities are made palatable by Cooder’s slippery tone. Over the next several years, Cooder proved himself the right man in the right place at nearly every turn, contributing his guitar work to classic records including Randy Newman’s 12 Songs (1970), Little Feat’s self-titled debut (1971) and, most importantly, the Rolling Stones’ Let It Bleed (1969) and Sticky Fingers (1971).

As a solo artist, Cooder produced 10 studio albums and four film soundtracks between 1970 and 1982, nearly every one manifesting as its own hybrid genre study. Touching on blues, country, folk, Tex-Mex, vaudeville, gospel, calypso—and just about any genre domestic or international that you can name—Cooder eschewed pop stardom in favor of a life in musical pilgrimage.

By the late ‘80s, this notion of pilgrimage transformed Cooder into one of the foremost champions of what is commonly called World Music. Though we concede that “World” is a fairly ethnocentric catch-all for non-Western music, it truly qualifies in Cooder’s case. Beginning with 1993’s Indian-inflected Meeting by the River, Cooder initiated a series of collaborations with leading world musicians, routinely helping to bring global exposure to regional phenomena.

Most famously, Cooder opted to violate America’s travel ban to Cuba in order to record with local legends like Compay Segundo, Rubén González, and Ibrahim Ferrer (all now deceased). Cooder helped bring Cuba’s musical tradition, obscured by political isolation, to international attention. The collaboration also resulted in 1997’s most surprising hit record, with Buena Vista Social Club, which became an Academy Award–nominated documentary two years later.


Clancy's comment:  I recall this guy when I was a budding teenage rockstar. A very talented man.

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