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Ry Cooder (1947)

Ryland Peter Cooder

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Ryland Peter "Ry" Cooder is an American guitarist, singer and composer. He is known for his slide guitar work, his interest in roots music from the United States, and, more recently, his collaborations with traditional musicians from many countries.

His solo work has been eclectic, encompassing folk, blues, Tex-Mex, soul, gospel, rock, and much else. He has collaborated with many musicians, including Larry Blackmon, The Rolling Stones, Van Morrison, Neil Young & Crazy Horse, Randy Newman, Earl Hines, Little Feat, Captain Beefheart, The Chieftains, John Lee Hooker, Pops and Mavis Staples, Flaco Jiménez, Ibrahim Ferrer, Freddy Fender, Vishwa Mohan Bhatt and Ali Farka Touré. He formed the band Little Village with Nick Lowe, John Hiatt, and Jim Keltner.

Ry Cooder produced the Buena Vista Social Club album , which became a worldwide hit. Wim Wenders directed the documentary film of the same name , which was nominated for an Academy Award in 2000.

He was ranked eighth on Rolling Stone magazine's 2003 list of "The 100 Greatest Guitarists of All Time". A 2010 ranking by Gibson placed him at number 32.


During the 1960s, Cooder briefly attended Reed College in Portland, Oregon. Cooder first attracted attention in the 1960s, playing with Captain Beefheart and the Magic Band, after previously having worked with Taj Mahal and Ed Cassidy in the Rising Sons. He also played with Randy Newman at this time, including on 12 Songs. Van Dyke Parks worked with Newman and Cooder during the 1960s. Parks arranged Cooder's "One Meatball" according to Parks' 1984 interview by Bob Claster.

Cooder was a session musician on various recording sessions with the The Rolling Stones in 1968 and 1969, and his contributions appear on the albums Let It Bleed (mandolin on "Love in Vain"), and Sticky Fingers, on which he contributed the slide guitar on "Sister Morphine". During this period, Cooder joined with Mick Jagger, Charlie Watts, Bill Wyman, and longtime Rolling Stones sideman Nicky Hopkins to record Jamming with Edward! Cooder also played slide guitar for the 1970 film soundtrack Performance, which contained Jagger's first solo single, "Memo from Turner". The 1975 compilation album Metamorphosis features an uncredited Cooder contribution on Bill Wyman's "Downtown Suzie."

Ry Cooder also collaborated with Lowell George of Little Feat, playing slide guitar on the original version of "Willin'".

Throughout the 1970s, Cooder released a series of Warner Bros. Records albums that showcased his guitar work. Cooder explored bygone musical genres and found old-time recordings which he then personalized and updated. Thus, on his breakthrough album, Into the Purple Valley, he chose unusual instrumentations and arrangements of blues, gospel, calypso, and country songs (giving a tempo change to the cowboy ballad "Billy the Kid"). The album opened with the song "How Can You Keep on Moving " by Agnes "Sis" Cunningham about the Okies who were not welcomed when they migrated west to escape the Dust Bowl in the 1930s — to which Cooder gave a rousing-yet-satirical march accompaniment. His later 1970s albums do not fall under a single genre description, but his self-titled first album could be described as blues; Into the Purple Valley, Boomer's Story, and Paradise and Lunch as folk and blues; Chicken Skin Music and Showtime as a mix of Tex-Mex and Hawaiian; Bop Till You Drop as 1950s' R&B; and Borderline and Get Rhythm as rock-based. His 1979 album Bop Till You Drop was the first popular music album to be recorded digitally. It yielded his biggest hit, an R&B cover version of Elvis Presley's 1960s recording "Little Sister". Cooder is credited on Van Morrison's 1979 album, Into the Music, for slide guitar on the song "Full Force Gale". He also played guitar on Judy Collins' 1970 concert tour, and is featured on Living, the 1971 live album recorded during that tour.

Cooder has worked as a studio musician and has also scored many film soundtracks including Wim Wenders film Paris, Texas . Cooder based this soundtrack and title song "Paris, Texas" on Blind Willie Johnson's "Dark Was the Night ", which he described as "The most soulful, transcendent piece in all American music." Musician Dave Grohl has declared Cooder's score for Paris, Texas is one of his favorite albums.

"Dark Was the Night " was also the basis for Cooder's song "Powis Square" for the movie Performance. His other film work includes Walter Hill's The Long Riders , Southern Comfort , Brewster's Millions , Johnny Handsome, Last Man Standing , Hill's Trespass and Mike Nichols' Primary Colors . Cooder dubbed all slide guitar parts in the 1986 film Crossroads, a take on blues legend Robert Johnson. In 1988, Cooder produced the album by his longtime backing vocalists Bobby King and Terry Evans on Rounder Records titled Live and Let Live. He contributed his slide guitar work to every track. He also plays extensively on their 1990 self-produced Rounder release Rhythm, Blues, Soul & Grooves. Cooder's music also appeared on two episodes of the television program "Tales From the Crypt" -- "The Man Who Was Death" and "The Thing From the Grave" (http://www.allmusic.com/album/original-music-from-tales-from-the-crypt-w93724).

In the early 1990s Cooder collaborated on two world music "crossover" albums, which blended the traditional American musical genres that Cooder has championed throughout his career with the contemporary improvised music of India and Africa. For A Meeting by the River , which also featured his son Joachim on percussion, he teamed with Hindustani classical musician V.M. Bhatt, a virtuoso of the Mohan Veena, a modified 20-string archtop guitar of Bhatt's own invention. In 1995 he teamed with African multi-instrumentalist Ali Farka Toure on the album Talking Timbuktu, which he also produced; the album also featured longtime Cooder collaborator Jim Keltner on drums, veteran blues guitarist Clarence "Gatemouth" Brown, jazz bassist John Patitucci and African percussionists and musicians including Hamma Sankare and Oumar Toure. Both albums won the Grammy Award for 'Best World Music Album' in 1994 and 1995 respectively. Cooder also worked with Tuvan throat singers for the score to the 1993 film Geronimo: An American Legend.

In 1995 he performed in The Wizard of Oz in Concert: Dreams Come True, a musical performance of the popular story at the Lincoln Center in New York to benefit the Children's Defense Fund. The performance was originally broadcast on Turner Network Television , and was issued on CD and video in 1996.

In the late 1990s Cooder played a significant role in the increased appreciation of traditional Cuban music, due to his collaboration as producer of the Buena Vista Social Club recording, which became a worldwide hit and revived the careers of some of the greatest surviving exponents of 20th century Cuban music. Wim Wenders, who had previously directed 1984's Paris Texas, directed a documentary film of the musicians involved, Buena Vista Social Club , which was nominated for an Academy Award in 2000.

Cooder's 2005 album Chávez Ravine was touted by his record label as being "a post-World War II-era American narrative of 'cool cats', radios, UFO sightings, J. Edgar Hoover, red scares, and baseball"— the record is a tribute to the long-gone Los Angeles Latino enclave known as Chávez Ravine. Using real and imagined historical characters, Cooder and friends created an album that recollects various aspects of the poor but vibrant hillside Chicano community which no longer exists. Cooder says, "Here is some music for a place you don’t know, up a road you don’t go. Chávez Ravine, where the sidewalk ends."Drawing from the various musical strains of Los Angeles, including conjunto, R&B, Latin pop, and jazz, Cooder and friends conjure the ghosts of Chávez Ravine and Los Angeles at mid-century. On this fifteen-track album, sung in Spanish and English, Cooder is joined by East L.A. legends like Chicano music patriarch Lalo Guerrero, Pachuco boogie king Don Tosti, Thee Midniters front man Little Willie G, and Ersi Arvizu, of The Sisters and El Chicano.

Cooder's next record was released in 2007. Entitled My Name Is Buddy, it tells the story of Buddy Red Cat, who travels and sees the world in the company of his like-minded friends, Lefty Mouse and Rev. Tom Toad. The entire recording is a parable of the working class progressivism of the first half of the American twentieth century, and even has a song featuring executed unionist Joe Hill. My Name Is Buddy was accompanied by a booklet featuring a story and illustration for each track, providing additional context to Buddy's adventures.

Cooder produced and performed on an album for Mavis Staples entitled We'll Never Turn Back, which was released on April 24, 2007. The concept album focused on Gospel songs of the civil rights movement and also included two new original songs by Cooder.

Ry Cooder's album I, Flathead was released on June 24, 2008. It is the completion of his California trilogy. Based on the drag racing culture of the early 1960s, the album is set on the desert salt flats in southern California. The disc was also released as a deluxe edition with stories written by Cooder to accompany the music.

In late 2009, Cooder toured Japan, New Zealand and Australia with Nick Lowe, performing some of Lowe's songs and a selection of Cooder's own material, mainly from the 1970s. Joaquim Cooder (Ry's son) provided percussion, and Juliette Commagere and Alex Lilly contributed backing vocals.

The song "Diaraby", which Cooder recorded with Ali Farka Touré, is used as the theme to The World's Geo Quiz. The World is a radio show distributed by Public Radio International.

In 2009, Cooder performed in The People Speak, a documentary feature film that uses dramatic and musical performances of the letters, diaries, and speeches of everyday Americans, based on historian Howard Zinn's A People's History of the United States. Cooder performed with Bob Dylan and Van Dyke Parks on the documentary broadcast on December 13, 2009 on the History Channel. They played "Do Re Mi" and reportedly a couple of other Guthrie songs that were excluded from the final edit. He also traveled with the band Los Tigres del Norte and recorded the 2010 album San Patricio with the Chieftains, Lila Downs, Liam Neeson, Linda Ronstadt, Van Dyke Parks, Los Cenzontles, and Los Tigres.

In June 2010, responding to the passage of Arizona SB 1070, he released the single "Quicksand", which tells the story of Mexicans attempting to emigrate to Arizona through the desert.
Cooder's critically acclaimed new album Pull Up Some Dust and Sit Down, released on August 30, 2011, contains politically charged songs such as "No Banker Left Behind" which was inspired by a Robert Scheer column.

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Name Duration Released
Quick Sand 03:17 2011
Dreamer 05:05 2011
El Corrido de Jesse James 04:17 2011
John Lee Hooker for President 06:08 2011
No Banker Left Behind 03:36 2011
I Want My Crown 02:37 2011
Lord Tell Me Why 03:01 2011
Baby Joined the Army 06:35 2011
No Hard Feelings 05:52 2011
Christmas Time This Year 02:49 2011
If There's a God 03:06 2011
Humpty Dumpty World 04:18 2011
Dirty Chateau 05:29 2011
Simple Tools 05:07 2011
Steel Guitar Heaven 03:40 23/06/2008
5000 Country Music Songs 06:41 23/06/2008
Can I Smoke In Here? 04:19 23/06/2008
Flathead One More Time 03:12 23/06/2008
Johnny Cash 03:08 23/06/2008
My Dwarf Is Getting Tired 03:59 23/06/2008
Waitin' for Some Girl 03:48 23/06/2008
Filipino Dancehall Girl 03:54 23/06/2008
Drive Like I Never Been Hurt 04:07 23/06/2008
Spayed Kooley 02:09 23/06/2008
Fernando Sez 04:44 23/06/2008
Pink-O Boogie 03:05 23/06/2008
Ridin' with the Blues 03:01 23/06/2008
One Cat, One Vote, One Beer 04:15 15/03/2007
Green Dog 07:33 15/03/2007
My Name Is Buddy 03:12 15/03/2007
Sundown Town 02:57 15/03/2007
Three Chords and the Truth 05:02 15/03/2007
Footprints in the Snow 03:07 15/03/2007
The original Cardboard Avenue Jaywalkers 00:00 15/03/2007
J. Edgar 02:37 15/03/2007
Red Cat Till I Die 03:08 15/03/2007
Strike! 05:07 15/03/2007
Hank Williams 04:09 15/03/2007
There's a Bright Side Somewhere 04:49 15/03/2007
Cat and Mouse 05:02 15/03/2007
Christmas in Southgate 03:27 15/03/2007
Farm Girl 03:54 15/03/2007
Suitcase in My Hand 02:54 15/03/2007
The Dying Truck Driver 04:56 15/03/2007
Cardboard Avenue 04:33 15/03/2007
Chinito Chinito 04:52 2005
Soy Luz y Sombra 03:15 2005
Los Chucos Suaves 03:08 2005
3rd Base, Dodger Stadium 05:45 2005
Friend for Life 00:00 2005
Barrio Viejo 04:42 2005
Muy Fifí 04:03 2005
Ejército Militar 03:16 2005
Corrido de Boxeo 03:21 2005
In My Town 05:40 2005
Don't Call Me Red 04:58 2005
It's Just Work for Me 05:54 2005
Onda Callejera 03:50 2005
El U.F.O. Cayó 08:22 2005
Poor Man's Shangri-La 05:28 2005
3 Cool Cats 02:57 2005
Longing 11:56 04/1993
A Meeting by the River 10:03 04/1993
Isa Lei 07:39 04/1993
Ganges Delta Blues 09:57 04/1993
Down in the Boondocks 03:21 10/1980
Why Don't You Try Me 04:54 10/1980
Speedo 03:20 10/1980
634-5789 02:56 10/1980
Johnny Porter 05:21 10/1980
Trouble, You Can't Fool Me 04:55 07/1979
Look at Granny Run Run 03:09 07/1979
Down in Hollywood 04:14 07/1979
I Think It's Going to Work Out Fine 04:43 07/1979
The Very Thing That Makes You Rich 05:32 07/1979
Go Home, Girl 05:10 07/1979
Little Sister 03:49 07/1979
Don't Mess Up a Good Thing 04:08 07/1979
Happy Meeting in Glory 03:13 1978
The Dream 05:03 1978
The Pearls / Tia Juana 04:18 1978
Face to Face That I Shall Meet Him 03:16 1978
Big Bad Bill 03:34 1978
The Surrey With the Fringe on Top 00:00 1977
I've Grown Accustomed to His Face 00:00 1977
People Will Say We're in Love 00:00 1977
When I'm Not Near the Boy I Love 00:00 1977
I Love Paris 00:00 1977
The Sound of Music 00:00 1977
Ohio 00:00 1977
On the Street Where You Live 00:00 1977
I Got the Sun in the Morning 00:00 1977
A Wonderful Guy 00:00 1977
Show Time 00:00 1977
They Say It's Wonderful 00:00 1977
Yellow Roses 06:11 1976
Stand by Me 03:38 1976
Smack Dab in the Middle 03:18 1976
He'll Have to Go 05:07 1976
Always Lift Him Up/Kanaka Wai Wai 06:01 1976
I Got Mine 04:28 1976
The Bourgeois Blues 03:22 1976
Chloe 03:00 1976
If Walls Could Talk 03:12 05/1974
Fool for a Cigarette/Feelin' Good 04:25 05/1974
It's All Over Now 04:49 05/1974
Jesus on the Mainline 04:09 05/1974
Married Man's a Fool 03:10 05/1974
Tattler 04:14 05/1974
Tamp 'Em Up Solid 03:19 05/1974
Mexican Divorce 03:51 05/1974
Ax Sweet Mama 04:23 11/1972
Crow Black Chicken 02:14 11/1972
Cherry Ball Blues 04:10 11/1972
Boomer's Story 04:13 11/1972
Maria Elena 04:30 11/1972
Edward's Thrump Up 08:11 07/01/1972
It Hurts Me Too 05:12 07/01/1972
The Boudoir Stomp 05:13 07/01/1972
Denomination Blues 03:58 01/1972
Teardrops Will Fall 03:03 01/1972
FDR in Trinidad 03:01 01/1972
Money Honey 03:28 01/1972
Billy the Kid 03:45 01/1972
Taxes on the Farmer Feeds Us All 03:52 01/1972
How Can You Keep Moving 02:25 01/1972
Great Dream from Heaven 01:53 01/1972
Hey Porter 04:34 01/1972
On a Monday 02:52 01/1972
Do Re Mi 03:03 12/1970
One Meat Ball 02:27 12/1970
France Chance 02:45 12/1970
Alimony 02:11 12/1970
How Can a Poor Man Stand Such Times and Live? 02:45 12/1970
My Old Kentucky Home (Turpentine & Dandelion Wine) 01:45 12/1970
Nitty Gritty Mississippi 02:57
See You in Hell, Blind Boy 02:10
Viola Lee Blues 03:11
Cotton Needs Pickin' 02:58
Walkin' Away Blues 03:37
Down in Mississippi 04:25
Willie Brown Blues 03:45
Crossroads 04:24
Somebody's Callin' My Name 01:45
Feelin' Bad Blues 04:16
He Made a Woman Out of Me 04:12


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