Rockapaedia Obituaries

Jim Capaldi

Band: Traffic

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Jim Capaldi died aged sixty years of stomach cancer in Westminster, Lopic of Jim Capaldindon on 28th January 2005. Jim was survived by his widow and his daughters.
Jim Capaldi was born Nicolas James Capaldi on 2nd August 1944 in Evesham, Worcestershire UK. As a child Jim Capaldi studied the piano and singing with his father, a music teacher, and by his teens he was playing drums with his friends. At age fourteen he founded the band The Sapphires and served as their lead vocalist. At sixteen he took an apprenticeship at a factory in Worcester, where he met Dave Mason. In 1963 he formed The Hellions with Mason on guitar and Gordon Jackson on rhythm guitar, while he himself switched to drums. In August 1964, Tanya Day took The Hellions to the Star-Club in Hamburg, Germany as her backing group. The Spencer Davis Group were staying at the same hotel as The Hellions and it was there that Steve Winwood befriended Jim Capaldi and Mason. They were managed for a time by John Schatt, known as Scottie, who later became a powerful entrepreneur in the music business.
Back in Worcester, The Hellions established themselves as busy professionals of sufficient repute to provide backing to visiting performers including Adam Faith and Dave Berry. By the end of 1964, they had a London residency at the Whisky a Go Go Club. In 1964–65 the band released three singles, but none charted. Later that year John "Poli" Palmer joined the band on drums and Jim Capaldi became the lead vocalist.
The Hellions moved back to Worcester in 1966 in an attempt to reduce their costs but local tastes had changed and the band relaunched themselves as The Revolution with a fourth single that also failed to chart. Disillusioned, Dave Mason left the band. Jim Capaldi replaced Mason with Luther Grosvenor and renamed the band Deep Feeling. Jim Capaldi, Jackson and Palmer wrote original songs for the band that were heavier than the Hellions repertoire. They played gigs in Birmingham and the surrounding Black Country area where they developed a significant fan base, and eventually came to the attention of former Yardbirds manager Giorgio Gomelsky, who offered them a recording contract. They recorded several studio tracks from 1966 to 1968 which remained unreleased until 2009, when the album Pretty Colours was released by Sunbeam Records.
Jim Capaldi and the band played frequently in London and Jimi Hendrix played guitar with them at the Knuckles Club as an unknown musician. Back in Birmingham Jim Capaldi would occasionally join his friends Mason, Winwood and Chris Wood for after-hours impromptu performances at The Elbow Room club on Aston High Street. Early in 1967 they formalised this arrangement by forming Traffic, and Deep Feeling disbanded. In 1968, Jim Capaldi, Winwood and Mason contributed backing music to a solo album by Gordon Jackson.
The new band was signed by Island Records and rented a quiet cottage in Aston Tirrold, Berkshire to write and rehearse new material. Jim Capaldi wrote the lyrics for Traffic's first single "Paper Sun", which appeared in the UK singles chart at number 5 in summer 1967. This was the beginning of a songwriting partnership between him and Winwood which would produce the overwhelming majority of Traffic's songs: With the exception of "No Face, No Name, No Number", Jim Capaldi would pen a lyric first, and then hand it over to Winwood to write the music. Despite his key role in writing the band's material, Jim Capaldi rarely did lead vocals with Traffic, and his lyrics were nearly always keyed towards Winwood's soulful voice rather than his own more hard-edged vocal style.
Two more Traffic singles were released successfully in 1967, and in December the band released the album 'Mr.Fantasy'. After one further album, 'Traffic', the group disbanded.
Jim Capaldi formed another band with Mason, Wood, and Mick Weaver but the creative tensions that had caused Mason to leave Traffic remained and the resulting quartet only lasted until March 1969. In January 1970 Jim Capaldi and Wood joined Winwood in the studio to record Winwood's solo album. These sessions were so successful that the three of them reformed Traffic to release the album 'John Barleycorn Must Die'. They then toured the UK and the US with an expanded line-up, which would go on to produce the hit albums 'Welcome to the Canteen' and 'The Low Spark of the High Heeled Boy'. The title track of the latter, a cynical treatise on the music industry, would prove to be one of Jim Capaldi's most famous lyrics. In addition, "Rock and Roll Stew (part 1)", a rare instance of a Traffic song with Jim Capaldi on lead vocal, was a minor hit in the USA.
With Traffic on hiatus due to Steve Winwood's struggles with peritonitis, Jim Capaldi recorded a solo album 'Oh How We Danced' in 1972. This set contained a broad variety of musical styles and featured contributions from Free guitarist Paul Kossoff, the Muscle Shoals Rhythm Section, and several members of Traffic. It was well received by critics and proved to be a modest success in the USA, encouraging Jim Capaldi to pursue a solo career alongside his work with Traffic.
After two more albums with Traffic, the group took a short break, allowing Jim Capaldi to record 'Whale Meat Again', which was slightly less successful than his debut both in terms of reviews and sales. The title track was a thoroughly hard rocking and unapologetic environmentalist tirade; aggressive sociopolitical-themed songs became a recurring theme in Jim Capaldi's work. He began work on his third solo album, 'Short Cut Draw Blood', alongside recording 'When the Eagle Flies' with Traffic. As the band set off on the supporting tour, an early single from Short Cut, "It's All Up to You", made the UK Top 40. Though Jim Capaldi's first major solo hit, it proved only a prelude to the album's chief success. Traffic disbanded after the tour, leaving Jim Capaldi to focus all his efforts on his solo career. 'Short Cut Draw Blood' appeared the following year. In October 1975, a single taken from the album, a cover version of The Everly Brothers' "Love Hurts", reached number four in the UK chart and charted worldwide. The album is considered by many to be his masterpiece, tackling issues such as the environment, government corruption and drugs. He also embarked on a very brief acting career, appearing in the rarely seen 30-minute short film 'Short Ends' (1976), which was directed by Esther Anderson and co-starred Judy Geeson and Hilary Baker. However, events would conspire to prevent Jim Capaldi from consolidating his solo stardom. He began working on his next album, 'Play it by Ear', alongside serving as a major collaborator on Steve Winwood's first solo album. Play it by Ear took an unusually long time to record, and in the meantime, his long-standing relationship with Island Records fell apart. The album was cancelled as a result, even though an advance single, "Goodbye My Love" had already been released. Jim Capaldi later described his leaving Island Records as "a leap into the wilderness." Due to these delays, it wasn't until over two years after Short Cut Draw Blood that another Jim Capaldi album appeared.
At this time Jim Capaldi wrote the soundtrack to the award-winning film "The Contender", his last recording with the Muscle Shoals Rhythm Section as his backing band, and correspondingly put together a new backing band for himself called the Contenders. The group consisted of Pete Bonas (guitar), Chris Parren (miscellaneous keyboards), Ray Allen (saxophone, backing vocals, percussion), and Phil Capaldi (backing vocals, percussion). Bonas was a particularly significant collaborator, and would co-write many of Jim Capaldi's songs. The band chiefly supported him on tour; only one album, Electric Nights, featured the Contenders on every track. At the encouragement of his new label, RSO Records, Jim Capaldi began venturing into disco. His first album with the label, The Contender, was released in the USA with the title Daughter of the Night and a partially different set of songs. However, the album's internationally released single, "Daughter of the Night", failed to make a major impact.
The follow-up, 1979's Electric Nights, was more successful. "Shoe Shine", which combined disco rhythms and melodies with an angry lead vocal and lyrics about poverty and destitution, reached number 11 in France and also entered Billboard's Dance Music/Club Play Singles chart. However, despite including both hard rockers such as "Elixir of Life" and "Hotel Blues" and laments such as "Short Ends" and "Wild Geese" alongside the disco-flavoured numbers, Jim Capaldi retained no fondness for his two albums with RSO, later saying "frankly, they got buried under a pile of disco."
Switching record labels again, Jim Capaldi dropped the disco elements entirely for his next two albums, The Sweet Smell of... Success (1980) and Let the Thunder Cry (1981). The albums were evenly split between mellow pop and embittered hard rock, with "Success" sporting a morbid before/after cover, and some tracks incorporated a Latin influence from Jim Capaldi's new home, Brazil. However, though "Child in the Storm" reached number 75 in the Netherlands, there was nothing resembling a major hit, not even the folk arrangement of Traffic's "The Low Spark of High-Heeled Boys".
The album Let the Thunder Cry was released in Brazil by Young/RGE in early 1981 and spawned two big hits there: "Old Photographs", a cover version of "Casinha branca" originally recorded by Gilson in 1979; and "Favella Music". "Old Photographs" became a hit after it was included in the international soundtrack of the Rede Globo soap opera Brilhante in late 1981. "Favella Music" was also a hit in late 1981. Jim Capaldi and Stevie Winwood had maintained a working partnership since Traffic's dissolution, contributing to nearly all of each other's solo albums. With his eighth solo album, Jim Capaldi enlisted his old partner as a major collaborator. For the first time, he played most of the drums himself, and he would continue to do so on future solo albums. However, most of the tracks on Fierce Heart were mixed to place emphasis on the synthesizers, often muting Jim Capaldi's vocals. This synth-heavy pop sound was exactly what 1980s audiences were looking for, and "That's Love" became his biggest hit in the USA, climbing to number 28 in the summer of 1983. Another single from the album, "Living on the Edge", made it to number 75, while the album made it to 91 in the Billboard 200.
This time Jim Capaldi was able to quickly produce a follow-up, but despite his recent success and appearances by Steve Marriott, Snowy White, and Carlos Santana, 1984's One Man Mission failed to produce a hit. The album leaned more towards hard rock than Fierce Heart, but drum machines and synthesizers remained major components. Jim Capaldi laid low as a solo artist for the next few years, only to bounce back in 1988 with the heavily publicised Some Come Running. Though the album failed to live up to commercial expectations, it reached number 183 in the USA and number 46 in Sweden, while achieving two hit singles in the Netherlands. Though Eric Clapton and George Harrison appeared on "Oh Lord, Why Lord", it was "Something so Strong" which became his biggest hit in the Netherlands, breaking the top 40 and powering the album itself into the charts.
'Some Come Running' essentially marked the end of Jim Capaldi's career as a solo artist. He would not record another solo album for well over a decade, though a greatest hits compilation, Prince of Darkness, was released in 1995 and made the charts in the Netherlands.

Jim Capaldi's success as a lyricist continued throughout his life. In 1990 "One and Only Man", a Steve Winwood song for which Jim Capaldi wrote the lyrics, reached the Top 20 in the USA. He was a five times winner of BMI/Ascap Awards for the "most played compositions in America", and sales of songs written or co-written by him exceeded 25 million units. He numbered Bob Marley among his friends, and they travelled together while Marley was writing the Catch A Fire album. Jim Capaldi wrote the lyrics to "This Is Reggae Music".
Jim Capaldi was noted for the extent of his collaborations with other musicians. In 1973, he played drums at Eric Clapton's Rainbow Concert and on some Clapton studio sessions. Jim Capaldi collaborated with Robert Calvert of Hawkwind on his critically acclaimed 1974 solo album Captain Lockheed and the Starfighters, contributing as a vocal actor on the concept album's theatrical sections between songs. In the 1980s, Jim Capaldi collaborated with Carlos Santana contributing songs and ideas to Santana's projects and in the 1990s he co-wrote (with Paul Carrack) the song "Love Will Keep Us Alive", which was eventually used on the Eagles' successful Hell Freezes Over album. In 1993, Traffic reformed and toured the US and UK. Jim Capaldi and Winwood recorded a new album, 'Far from Home', without the other members of the band. In 1998 he paired up again with Mason on an extensive American tour.
In 2001, Jim Capaldi's eleventh solo album ,Living on the Outside, featured George Harrison, Steve Winwood, Paul Weller, Gary Moore and Ian Paice. George Harrison played guitar on the track "Anna Julia", an English translation of a song by the Brazilian band Los Hermanos and Jim Capaldi played at the Concert for George in 2002.
Following his death, several tributes in celebration of Jim Capaldi's life and music came out under the name Dear Mr Fantasy. The first was a tribute concert that took place at the Roundhouse in Camden Town, London on Sunday, 21 January 2007. Guests included Bill Wyman, Jon Lord, Gary Moore, Steve Winwood, Cat Stevens, Paul Weller, Pete Townshend, his brother, Phil and many more. The performances were evenly split between Jim Capaldi's solo songs and his work with Traffic. All profits went to The Jubilee Action Street Children Appeal. A recording of the concert was released as a double CD set the same year.
The second such tribute, Dear Mr. Fantasy: The Jim Capaldi Story, is a four-disc boxed set released in July 2011. Though a slight majority of the tracks came from Jim Capaldi's solo albums, it also included some of his work with the Hellions, Deep Feeling, and Traffic, a few rare non-album tracks, and more than ten previously unreleased recordings, including a song co-written with George Harrison in 1997. The box was also packaged with extensive liner notes, compiling a number of photos and essays.
The third and final tribute is a book of Jim Capaldi's handwritten lyrics, released in November 2011. The ideas of a boxed set and lyrics book had been conceived by Jim Capaldi shortly before he died, and their releases were prepared by his widow Aninha in fulfilment of a last promise to him.
He married Brazilian-born Aninha E S Campos in 1975 in High Wycombe, UK and in 1976 toured with his band Space Cadets before moving to Brazil in 1977. He had two daughters, Tabitha born in 1976 and Tallulah born in 1979. The Capaldis lived in the Bahia region of Brazil until the beginning of 1980 and while there he became heavily involved with environmental issues. They maintained homes in Marlow, Bucks UK and Ipanema, Ripic of Jim Capaldio de Janeiro. The track "Favela Music" on his 1981 album Let The Thunder Cry arose from his love of Brazil, and he worked with several Brazilian composers. He was a friend and supporter of the London School of Samba and played with the bateria on at least one occasion. He did a lot of charitable work for organisations in Brazil – such as the Associação Beneficiente São Martinho street childrens charity in Lapa, Rio de Janeiro, which the LSS also supported between 1994 & 2001. His wife Aninha Capaldi was also the Porta Bandeira of the LSS in the 1994 and 1995 Notting Hill Carnival parades.
Outside his music and environmental activism, Jim Capaldi also assisted his wife in her work with Jubilee Action to help Brazilian street children. Because of this charity work, Jim and his wife Aninha were guests of Tony Blair at the Prime Minister's country house, Chequers. He remained professionally active until his final illness prevented him from working on plans for a 2005 reunion tour of Traffic.
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song: 'Something So Strong' by Jim Capaldi