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Ry Cooder (born March 15, 1947) is a seminal and inspiring American roots guitarist, film composer, and session musician, best known for his memorable slide guitar work and cross genres appeal, hailing from Los Angeles, California, U.S.
Having first picked up the guitar aged three, it would be a further 13 years before Cooder made his debut alongside Jackie DeShannon in his first blues band. Continuing the blues themes, the guitarist subsequently joined Taj Mahal and Ed Cassidy in the Rising Sons, and later worked as a session musician for Paul Revere & the Raiders. On top of this, the gifted guitar-smith has notably worked with Randy Newman, the Rolling Stones, Little Feat, and Van Dyke Parks, of which Cooder’s signature slide guitar work can be heard. Known for adopting the sounds of a host of North American genres including the blues, rock and roll, Tex-Mex, gospel, R&B, folk, Dixieland jazz, and Hawaiian, Cooder’s extolled musical output represents an exploration is sound and American history.
The singer-songwriter made his debut solo album release in 1970 with a self-titled country-rock record. Two years later its successor, “Into the Purple Valley” arrived, marking a more rootsy album and the contributions of musical friends Jim Keltner and Jim Dickinson. Cooder’s third full-length “Boomer’s Story” was released later in 1972 boasting much the same style as its predecessor and earned similarly popular reviews. Arguably his most revered album, 1974’s “Paradise and Lunch”, is a carefully crafted patchwork-quilt of influences. Featuring railroad songs, blues numbers as well as songs by Bobby Womack, Blind Willie McTell, and Burt Bacharach, the record showcases Cooder’s composition and songwriting virtuosity.
Drawing influence from Tex-Mex, Hawaiian music, and gospel, Cooder’s subsequent album “Chicken Skin Music” was released in 1976. Three years later the musician’s first major label record to be recorded digitally was issued under the name “Bop Till You Drop”. After this time Cooder would continue to release solo albums however also began composing music for films, notably on the films “The Long Riders”, “Southern Comfort”, “Paris, Texas”, “Blue City”, and “Cross Roads”.
Following a brief stint alongside Keltner, John Hiatt, and Nick Lowe in the band Little Village, Cooder began to focus on children’s and world music, subsequently winning the 1988 Grammy Award for Best Recording for Children with his “Pecos Bill”. Five years later Cooder was picking up another Grammy Award for Best World Music Album for his 1993 album “A Meeting by the River” with Vishwa Mohan Bhatt. These successes would prove to be the first of six Grammy Awards bestowed upon the talented multi-instrumentalist, with his albums “Talking Timbuktu”, “Buena Vista Social Club”, “Mamba Sinuendo”, and “Beunos Hermanos” also earning the accolade.
In 1987 Cooder issued the album “Chavez Ravine”, the first in a trilogy of albums documenting the loss of Los Angeles’ cultural history, succeeded by “My Name is Buddy” in 2007, and “I, Flathead” in 2009. Alongside the Chieftains, Cooder issued the album “San Patricio” in March 2010, followed by the live album “Live in San Francisco” in September 2013.