Thursday | December 14, 2017
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‘Delta Lady’ Coolidge headlines in Honokaa

Rita Coolidge is American music royalty.

Winner of two Grammy awards performing with then-husband Kris Kristofferson, she was also part of the legendary 1970 “Mad Dogs and Englishmen” tour with Joe Cocker and Leon Russell. She inspired the song “Delta Lady” — written by Russell and popularized by Cocker. Her 1977 album “Anytime…Anywhere” produced three Top 20 singles in “(Your Love Has Lifted Me) Higher and Higher,” “We’re All Alone” and “The Way You Do the Things You Do.” Another of her hits, “All Time High,” was the theme song to the James Bond film “Octopussy.”

Coolidge and her band will perform Saturday night at the Honokaa People’s Theatre. Showtime is at 7 p.m. Doors open at 6 p.m.

Admission is $45 general, $65 gold circle, available at Hilo Ukulele &Guitar, CD Wizard and Hilo Music Exchange in Hilo; Keaau Natural Foods; Waimea General Store, Parker Square in Waimea; Kona Music Exchange, Sound Wave Music and Kiernan Music in Kona; online at bluesbearhawaii.com; and by calling 896-4845.

Coolidge’s autobiography “Delta Lady: A Memoir,” co-written with Michael Walker, was published last year. It was described as “unusually frank and compelling” by the San Diego Union-Tribune.

“Just writing the book and telling all those stories was, on a personal level, kind of a purging thing,” Coolidge told the Tribune-Herald last week. “I felt like I had an interesting perspective in just a great time in music and ended up in the right place at the right time. And I thought my point of view would be interesting to other people, more than anything, by being in the music business when it was way different than it is now.”

In the book, Coolidge wrote she was cheated out of a songwriting credit for the song “Layla” by Derek and the Dominos, led by Eric Clapton. She said she and then-boyfriend, drummer Jim Gordon, wrote a song called “Time,” which was recorded by Booker T. Jones and Coolidge’s late sister, Priscilla. The iconic piano coda to “Layla” was the musical underpinning to “Time,” minus the lyrics. Coolidge’s story was corroborated by Bobby Whitlock, the pianist on “Layla,” in a 2014 article on TeamRock.com.

Coolidge said she did a cassette demo of “Time” and left it for Clapton during a recording session and she first heard “Layla” — and the piano coda — while doing a photo shoot for her first solo album at A&M Records.

“Over the sound system I hear this music being played. It sounded familiar,” Coolidge recalled. “And as it went on, I realized what was going on because of Eric’s guitar. I guess that he had been in the studio and wrote the rest of ‘Layla’ and Jim Gordon was on the record. I don’t know what happened. I just know that my music ended up on ‘Layla.’ I went to Tower Records to see if my name was on the (writing credit) and, of course, it wasn’t. It was just Jim Gordon and Eric Clapton.

“I went to (producer) David Anderle and said, ‘What can I do?’ He said, ‘Well, you can call (the late music mogul) Robert Stigwood. But it’s probably not going to do any good, because they have deep pockets and you don’t.’ And I called and got in touch with Robert Stigwood and he said, ‘What are you gonna do? You’re a girl.’ He pretty much blew me off.

“Bobby Whitlock had the same experience with ‘Bell Bottom Blues.’ Bobby had been fighting for years and he not only won the lawsuit, he won back royalties. But it’s never been worth a battle. I just wanted the truth to be told. I haven’t heard a word from people in Eric Clapton’s camp. We’ve been trying to get in touch with him about it, but it’s just been silence.”

Gordon, who suffers from schizophrenia, is incarcerated for the stabbing death of his mother in 1983.

Coolidge recently recorded an album titled “Safe in the Arms of Time” for release in March. The title is a lyric from a song she co-wrote with Keb’ Mo’, who is featured on the album she described as “probably my favorite record of my career.” That’s a bold statement, considering “Anytime…Anywhere” made Coolidge a megastar.

“When that record came out, I was still such a young woman that I probably thought that when the millennium rolled around, I would be sitting on a porch in a rocking chair. But that’s definitely not what happened,” she said, and laughed.

“I’ve got my porch and I’m looking out on a beautiful lake and wildlife all around me, but I’ll be getting on a plane to fly for a day and a half to Hawaii. And I can’t wait.

“I think that’s the magic of having this life and loving the music that I play and the people that I play music with. And when we’re together, we’re timeless. We just can’t wait to hit the stage and start playing.”

Email John Burnett at jburnett@hawaiitribune-herald.com.

 

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