Iconic Claremont musician David Lindley dead at 78

by Mick Rhodes | editor@claremont-courier.com

Acclaimed Claremont musician and songwriter David Lindley has died.

Lindley died March 3 in Pomona, where he had been in hospice care for a short time. He had been hospitalized several times over a period of three months, first with double pneumonia, then with acute vasculitis. Lindley was 78.

He is survived by his wife Joanie and daughter Rosanne.

“We are devastated by the loss of our beloved David,” his family shared. “He was a brilliant man — a true genius. He was reclusive, and preferred playing his instruments to most social interaction. Nonetheless, he was kind and generous to those who approached him, whether by email, or on the street, or even at a show. He was kind to everybody. We are heartened by the outpouring of love and condolences we have received from people near and far. From the flowers left on our porch by people we don’t know, to the emails and texts from those he played with all over the world. David touched so many people.”

David Lindley at his final Claremont performance at the Folk Music Center on September 21, 2019. Photo/courtesy of Leslie Gunning

Lindley was known for his startling, wide-screen musicality, was conversant on dozens of stringed instruments, and was one of the progenitors of world music. From his distinctive lap steel work on Jackson Browne’s early records, to his own explorations of the music of Turkey, Madagascar, Jamaica, and Greece — to name but a few musical cultures he studied and mastered — Lindley has influenced countless musicians and songwriters around the world for more than five decades.

Born in San Marino, California in 1944, the longtime Claremont resident was an early bandmate of another giant of Claremont music, the late Chris Darrow (Lindley was also married to Darrow’s sister, Joanie) in Kaleidoscope. That band released four records between 1966 and 1970 and helped lay the groundwork for what would become known as world music.

After leaving Kaleidoscope, he went on to become an in-demand studio musician, working with Bob Dylan, Linda Ronstadt, Leonard Cohen, Dolly Parton, Rod Stewart, and Warren Zevon, and many others.

David Lindley performing at the 2016 Claremont Folk Festival. Photo/courtesy of Brian D’Ambrosia-Donner

But Lindley is most inextricably linked to Jackson Browne, who helped bring him into the mainstream consciousness, beginning with 1973’s “For Everyman.” By the mid-1970s Lindley’s soaring, melodic lap steel slide guitar was suddenly everywhere, as Browne scored a string of hits, including “These Days,” “Redneck Friend,” “The Pretender,” “Running on Empty,” “The Load Out/Stay,” and “That Girl Could Sing.”

Lindley also released more than a dozen solo records, most recently 2008’s “Big Twang.” His band El Rayo X hit number 34 on the Billboard charts in 1981 with its remake of “Mercury Blues,” marking his highest charting single as a solo artist.

Lindley had long been a figure of renown in Claremont. He was hard to miss; his style — funky, loud polyester pants, long hair, and oversized mutton-chop sideburns — was outsider fashion before the term existed, and grew to be iconic.

His final Claremont performance was at the Folk Music Center on September 21, 2019.

Photo/Todd Paris, Mountain Stage

David Lindley performing at the 2016 Claremont Folk Festival. Photo/courtesy Brian D’Ambrosia-Donner



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