David Lindley, journeyman multi-instrumentalist who played with Jackson Browne, Linda Ronstadt and many more, has died at age 78.
Lindley’s passing was confirmed to the Los Angeles Times, though an official cause of death was not given.
Born on March 21, 1944, in San Marino, Calif., Lindley played a variety of stringed instruments as a child, including violin, ukulele, banjo and fiddle. He quickly established a reputation as one of the most talented musicians on the scene, winning the Topanga Banjo and Fiddle Contest five times by his late teens.
Lindley played with the psychedelic folk group Kaleidoscope from 1966 to 1970, appearing on the band’s first four albums. He was a boldly experimental player even then, attacking his guitar with a violin bow — a move later immortalized by Jimmy Page, who called Kaleidoscope his “favorite band of all time.”
“David was a master of that technique, and we are still not sure if Page took it from David or not,” Kaleidoscope’s Chris Darrow told It’s Psychedelic Baby Magazine in 2011. “We know he and Robert Plant came to see us at the Avalon Ballroom and saw us perform the song [with the bow]!”
Ater Kaleidoscope disbanded, Lindley accepted an invitation to join Browne’s band, a position he held for a decade. Lindley played guitar and other instruments on five consecutive Browne albums, beginning with 1973’s For Everyman and including the multiplatinum hits The Pretender, Running on Empty and Hold Out. He also delivered a co-lead vocal on Empty hit “Stay,” performing the iconic falsetto refrain at the song’s end.
“It would have been hard to go out and play those songs with just anybody,” Browne told PBS of Lindley in 2021. “Nobody plays like him.”
Listen to Jackson Browne’s ‘Stay’
While playing with Browne in the ’70s, Lindley also toured with Crosby & Nash, James Taylor and Ronstadt. He was a prolific session musician as well, playing on albums by Rod Stewart, Warren Zevon, America, Joe Walsh, Ry Cooder and more. In 1981, he formed his own band, El Rayo-X, and released their self-titled debut album, produced by Browne.
Lindley’s solo work never reached the heights of his famous collaborators, but that didn’t bother him.
“I like all different kinds of stuff. That’s one of my problems,” he told Rock Cellar Magazine in 2016. “I never settle down in one area. At one point, I had the chance to go the Kiss route, but I decided to play what I liked. I’d rather mess around. It’s more fun.”
Lindley is survived by his wife, Joan Darrow — sister of his Kaleidoscope bandmate Chris Darrow — and their daughter, Rosanne Lindley.
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