View Full Version : Gentleman Jim Capaldi: Traffic’s Freedom Rider

Michael Jefferson
11.3.07, 2:40 PM
The late Jim Capaldi, lyricist/drummer/vocalist for the band Traffic, spent a good portion of his career playing second banana to the mega-talented Steve Winwood. His gregarious nature and willingness to jam at the drop of a drum stick earned him the nicknames “Gentleman Jim” and “Gentle Heart.” A talented vocalist in his own right, he fronted The Hellions in the early 60s with future Trafficker Dave Mason and later Deep Feeling, featuring future Spooky Tooth/Mott the Hoople guitarist Luther Grosvenor. Capaldi shifted back to playing drums when he formed Traffic with child prodigy Winwood, Mason and sax/flute/keyboard player Chris Wood in 1967. Capaldi’s lone lead vocal during the group’s first four albums was “Dealer,” an exotic mix of flamenco and folk included on the group’s debut “Mr. Fantasy.” Capaldi remained the group’s lyricist/drummer through Traffic’s fourth album, the classic “John Barleycorn Must Die,” released in 1970. Losing confidence in his abilities as a percussionist and wanting to stretch out as a performer, Capaldi became the group’s second vocalist/third percussionist and M.C. when Traffic added drummer Jim Gordon, bassist Rick Grech and percussionist Anthony “Reebop” Kwaku Baah to record the live “Welcome to the Canteen” and their magnum opus “The Low Spark of High Heeled Boys.” Capaldi’s resonant R &B vocals on his solo composition “Light Up Or Leave Me Alone” and Grech/Gordon’s “Rock and Roll Stew” on “Low Spark” provided a pleasing contrast to Winwood’s saintly tones, and re-established Capaldi as a voice to be reckoned with. When Winwood was struck down by peritonitis and “Low Spark’s” follow up tour was curtailed, Capaldi continued to stoke his creative fires by recording his first solo album, “Oh How We Danced.” From 1972 until his death from stomach cancer on January 28, 2005, Capaldi would record thirteen solo albums. As a composer, he was a five time BMI/ASCAP award winner for most played compositions in America, penned “This Is Reggae Music” for Bob Marley, and had “Love Will Keep Us Alive” picked up by the Eagles for their “Hell Freezes Over Album.” He and his wife Aninha founded Jubilee Action, which aids homeless children in Brazil. By all accounts, Jim Capaldi was a real gentleman.

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