JJ Cale
Songwriter JJ Cale: 'What's really nice is when you get a cheque in the mail'

The songwriter JJ Cale, who wrote the Eric Clapton hits Cocaine and After Midnight, has died of a heart attack, his management said. He was 74.

An announcement on his website said Cale died in hospital in La Jolla, California, on Friday.

Born John Weldon Cale in Oklahoma, in 1938, Cale helped create the Tulsa Sound combining blues, rockabilly, and country, and he released 14 albums in a career that spanned 30 years.

Cale took the stage name JJ to avoid confusion with the Velvet Underground's John Cale and achieved fame in 1970, when Eric Clapton covered his song After Midnight.

His song Cocaine became a hit for Clapton in 1977, and the two would later collaborate on Clapton's Grammy award-winning album The Road to Escondido in 2006.

"We've lost a great artist and a great person. JJ Cale passed away at 8 pm on Friday 26 July at Scripps Hospital in La Jolla, CA," said the statement on his website.

"He had suffered a heart attack. There are no immediate plans for services."

Novelist and former NME writer Tony Parsons led the tributes, saying: "RIP JJ Cale - got to love a man whose life motto was, 'Slower, baby.'

"RIP The most laid back man in the universe, stone cold genius - 'what have done - cajun moon?'"

Cale's own biggest hit, Crazy Mama, peaked at number 22 in the US charts in 1972. But he described himself as a songwriter rather than a singer, and many of his songs became hits for other other artists, including Johnny Cash, Tom Petty, Santana and Lynyrd Skynyrd.

"It doesn't bother me," Cale said. "What's really nice is when you get a cheque in the mail."