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Ry Cooder finds a new voice in telling Los Angeles stories

by AirTalk®

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Musician and author Ry Cooder with AirTalk host Larry Mantle at KPCC. Photo by Karen X. Fritsche

Ry Cooder has been telling stories with his guitar for the past five decades. Starting in the 1960’s, his work with Captain Beefheart, Randy Newman, The Rolling Stones and others brought slide guitar into the mainstream. His solo albums have embraced the roots of folk and popular song, including blues, gospel, calypso, Latin and country music.

In the 1980’s Cooder branched out into soundtracks; his haunting, soulful slide guitar work gave voice to the themes of alienation and regret in Wim Wenders’ “Paris, Texas.” He has collaborated with traditional world musicians including Ali Farka Touré, Flaco Jiménez and Havana’s legendary Buena Vista Social Club.

Recent releases have found him delving into social commentary, with the albums Chavez Ravine, My Name is Buddy and his newest release, Pull Up Some Dust and Sit Down. Now, Cooder turns to the printed page for his storytelling.

His first book, "Los Angeles Stories", offers Chandler-esque tales that take us to the darkened downtown streets, windswept neighborhoods and stuccoed apartment houses of postwar Los Angeles. With a musician’s ear for language, Cooder’s stories and the characters who people them – drifters, trolley drivers, disc jockeys, salesmen, jazz musicians and of course, cops and robbers -- take us on a journey into a Los Angeles that has long gone the way of Chavéz Ravine and the red cars. In doing so, he brings a sense of place he remembers from his childhood.

“I remember it pretty well,” Cooder says, “and things that are all gone now, or different, see?”


Ry Cooder, author of “Los Angeles Stories,” (City Lights Publishers) guitarist, singer and composer

Ry Cooder will be in conversation with Los Angeles Times’ book critic David Ulin about his new book “Los Angeles Stories,” this Sunday, November 6th at Skylight Books. To see event page, click here.

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