on this day


David Lindley, a multitalented musician who was a fixture in Los Angeles recording studios during the 1970s and ’80s, died on Friday, March 3, 2023 at age 78.
Lindley also worked as musical director for several touring artists. In addition, he occasionally scored and composed music for film. The majority of the instruments that Lindley played are string instruments, including violin, acoustic and electric guitar, upright and electric bass, banjo, lap steel guitar, mandolin, hardingfele, bouzouki, cittern, bağlama, gumbus, charango, cümbüş, oud, and zither. He mastered such a wide variety of instruments that Acoustic Guitar magazine referred to him not as a multi-instrumentalist, but instead as a “maxi-instrumentalist.”
A source close to Lindley confirmed his death to The Los Angeles Times. No cause of death was given, but a fundraiser to cover medical expenses from an undisclosed illness had been set up earlier in 2023.
Lindley was a longtime resident of Claremont, California. He is survived by his wife, Joan Darrow (sister of his Kaleidoscope bandmate Chris Darrow) and their daughter, Rosanne Lindley.
Americana singer-songwriter and guitarist Jason Isbell tweeted, “The loss of David Lindley is a huge one. Without his influence my music would sound completely different. I was genuinely obsessed with his playing from the first time I heard it. The man was a giant.”
Graham Nash also took to social media to pay tribute to Lindley. “One of the most talented musicians there has ever been,” Nash wrote. “David could play pretty much any instrument you put in front of him with incredible versatility and expression.”
Lindley could often be found in the studio working alongside other members of The Section, a crew of session musicians who shaped the sound of soft rock in the 1970s. “They were some of the most creative musicians around,” David Crosby, who hired Lindley in 1975, told Rolling Stone back in 2013. “You never had to tell them what to play. You sang them a song and got the f*** out of the way … I’d listen to a song and see what worked. The song is the center of everything. If the song was about a friend of Jackson’s who died, you play something appropriate for that,” Lindley told Rolling Stone in 2010. “You don’t play a Chuck berry solo in the middle of ‘Song for Adam.’ A Chuck Berry solo is a great thing, but not that for that moment.”
David Perry Lindley was born on March 21, 1944 in San Marino, California, and grew up in a musical household, surrounded by his father’s eclectic collection of 78 rpm records s that included Korean folk and Indian sitar music. Lindley took up the violin at age three, but broke the bridge. He then moved on to the baritone ukulele in his early teens.He then took to playing the banjo and the fiddle. By his late teens, he was acknowledged as an award-winning player, having won the Topanga Banjo•Fiddle Contest five times.
While attending La Salle High School in Pasadena, he formed the folk group the Mad Mountain Ramblers, who started playing in Los Angeles, patronizing folk clubs like the Ash Grove and the Troubador, and encountering an eclectic assortment of music, including flamenco, Russian folk music, and Indian sitar music. He found that radio played a very open assortment of music.
He soon met Chris Darrow and formed the short-lived Dry City Scat Band before Lindley started dabbling in electric music. The pair reunited in Kaleidoscope, a psychedelic folk rock band that released its first album, “Side Trips,” in 1967. That year, Lindley landed his first notable session work when he played a variety of instruments on Leonard Cohen’s debut album, “Songs of Leonard Cohen.”
Kaleidoscope lasted through four albums before splitting in 1970. Lindley married Joan Darrow, the sister of his musical colleague Chris Darrow from Kaleidoscope. In 1970, Joan and David Lindley had a daughter named Rosanne who became a folk singer with the Mountain Goats and the Bright Mountain Choir in the 1990s.
After the birth of Roseanne, Lindley headed to England, where he played with blues-rocker Terry Reid for a couple of years, appearing on Reid’s 1972 album, “River.” After completing his stint with Reid, Lindley joined Jackson Browne’s band. Soon he became a trusted collaborator, appearing on every album Browne released between 1973’s “For Everyman” and 1980’s “Hold Out.”
After playing a prominent part on Browne’s “For Everyman” (1973) and “Late for the Sky” (1974), Lindley came to the forefront on 1977’s multiplatinum “Running on Empty,” playing an indelible lap steel solo on the album’s title track and sharing lead vocals on the hit cover version of Maurice Williams’ ”Stay.”
Lindley also played on Linda Ronstadt’s “Heart Like a Wheel,” “Prisoner in Disguise” and “Simple Dreams” LPs, appeared on records by Crosby & Nash and Ry Cooder, and touring with them all as well as with James Taylor.
Rod Stewart brought him in to play on “Atlantic Crossing” and “A Night on the Town.” While producing Warren Zevon’s first album for Asylum, Browne had Lindley play fiddle and slide guitar; Zevon would hire Lindley again in the 1980s. Ry Cooder enlisted him for “Jazz” and “Bop Till You Drop” in the late 1970s, sparking a collaboration that continued for decades; the pair would occasionally tour as a duo, with one of these ventures captured on the 2019 release “Cooder/Lindley Family Live at the Vienna Opera House.” Lindley worked with many other performers including Bonnie Raitt, Curtis Mayfield and Dolly Parton, but put session work on the back burner in the early 1980s when he formed El Rayo-X, a group he characterized as “more or less a party band.” On the self-titled 1981 album and its 1982 sequel, “Win This Record!,” Lindley played a lively, vaguely new wave-inspired brand of roots-rock that found space for reggae rhythms along with an impish sense of humor; he rewrote the Huey Piano Smith hit “Rockin’ Pneumonia and the Boogie Woogie Blues” as “Tu-Ber-Cu-Lucas and the Sinus Blues.” He was famous for having written the only song glorifying a brand of male condoms, in “Ram-a-Lamb-a-Man,” from his album “Win this Record!”
Lindley displayed the full range of his musical interests, particularly in non-Western sounds. Lindley’s omnivorous tastes extended to the instruments he played. He accumulated all manner of stringed instruments from around the globe (he stated that he had “no idea” how many instruments he could actually play) often specializing in finding distinctive sounds in the kinds of cheap instruments other professional players would avoid.
After El Rayo-X split in 1989, he played on a multitude of studio sessions. He contributed to recordings and live performances by Bruce Springsteen, Toto, Rod Stewart, Joe Walsh and Dan Fogelberg. Between his work in the studio as a session musician or on tour as a sideman or bandleader, Lindley learned new instruments.
After “Very Greasy,” a Ronstadt-produced album from 1988, Lindley lost interest in mainstream rock along with his major-label contract. While he would still appear on prominent albums like Bob Dylan’s “Under the Red Sky,” Iggy Pop’s “Brick by Brick” and John Prine’s “The Missing Years,” he pursued more esoteric interests on his own.
Starting with 1991’s “A World Out of Time,” he and avant-garde guitarist Henry Kaiser released a series of albums based on field recording expeditions held in Madagascar and Norway. Around this time, Lindley struck up a partnership with Hani Naser, recording a series of albums with the Jordanian oud player.
He also developed an enduring relationship with reggae percussionist Wally Ingram. He first toured as a solo artist, and as half of a duo, first with Hani Naser, then with Wally Ingram.
Over the next few decades, Lindley happily resided on the fringes of mainstream music but would occasionally re-enter the spotlight. He reunited with Browne for a tour of Spain in 2006; the concerts provided the source material for the live album “Love Is Strange,” which won an Independent Music Award for Best Live Performance Album.
That same year, Ben Harper had him play guitar on “Both Sides of the Gun.” Lindley released his last solo album, “Big Twang,” in 2007, a year in which he also scored the Werner Herzog documentary “Encounters at the End of the World” with Kaiser.

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