Tox Tunes #74: Cocaine (J.J. Cale)

July 28, 2013, 6:56 pm

There has always been controversy over whether J.J. Cale’s song “Cocaine” was pro-drug or anti-drug. Eric Clapton — who recorded the song on his album Slowhand  and also had a hit single with it — certainly thought that the song was against drug use:

“It’s one of those songs that you can take it any way you like. But it very clearly says in the opening verse, ‘If you wanna get down, down on the ground.’ I mean, that’s, I think, the focal point of the song. That’s what the song’s about, is that, you know, there’s a price.”

However, when all the lyrics are taken into account, the song is much more ambiguous than Clapton let’s on.

In the first hit single of his solo career after playing with The Yardbirds,  John Mayall & the Bluesbreakers, Cream, Blind Faith, and Derek and the Dominos, Clapton covered another J.J. Cale song, “After Midnight”:

Cale died on July 26 in La Jolla of a heart attack. He was 74. As noted in his Washington Post obituary :

Mr. Cale and his fellow Oklahoman Leon Russell were credited with developing the ‘Tulsa sound,’ a relaxed style of bluesy country rock with minor chords, simple lyrics and a shuffling beat that helped define a decade of roots-based, Southern-style rock-and-roll.

Here’s a live version of Clapton performing “Cocaine”:


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