Memories of Jim Capaldi

I first became aware of Jim Capaldi (singer-songwriter, musician) when I read an article about him in the magazine, Words record song book in 1978. The article was relating to the release of his new album The Contender.

On checking in town I found the album in Uneeda Bookshop on Oliver Plunkett Street which was to become an old haunt of mine to this day. During the present pandemic, John who has run the shop since the beginning originally at No.66 decided to retire and close the shop. Many memories will remain of a special place.

I began researching the back catalogue of Jim Capaldi and the more familiar I became with his music the more he became an influence and inspiration in my life.

He was born in Evesham, Worcestershire on 2 August 1944 into a musical family. Both his parents were performers and his father was a music teacher. His interest in music was encouraged and he learned piano and drums. He began playing in local bands from the age of 14, the Sapphires, the Hellions, Revolution and Deep Feeling.

He struck up a friendship with Steve Winwood, of the Spencer Davis Group, who were successful with songs like Keep On Running and Gimme Some Lovin’. They began talking about creating music together and with Dave Mason (who had been in the Hellions with Jim) and Chris Wood (sax and flute) formed what was to become Traffic. They were to rent a cottage in Berkshire and began writing what was to become their debut album Mr. Fantasy released in December 1967 following on from the single Paper Sun.

During their career they developed a style that was to encompass Rock, Folk, Psychedelic, Blues, Jazz and World music. Winwood was the main music writer and Capaldi the lyricist.

These are just a few of their songs: Dear Mr. Fantasy, No Face No Name No Number, The Low Spark of High Heeled Boys and from their reunion album of 1994 Far from Home (dedicated to Chris Wood who had passed away in 1983), State of Grace and Holy Ground (featuring Davy Spillane).

Jim had begun recording solo albums before Traffic broke up in 1974. He had a hit with It’s All Up to You in 1974 and a top 5 success with a cover of the Everly Brothers song Love Hurts the following year. His first three fine albums have recently been reissued as a box set titled Open your Heart, The Island Recordings 1972- 1976, with a bonus DVD of The Old Grey Whistle Test performances from 1975 and 1976.

I remember the 1976 performance being shown on RTE 2 on 23/06/1979 and going down the North Main Street to get a cassette recorder to tape it, memories returning. Now I can watch it any time I like.

Jim released his album Electric Nights in 1979 and was to follow it with eight more solo albums, each containing songs which remain with me to this day.

Here are just a few: I’ll Keep Holding On, Man With No Country, Living On a Marble, Old Photographs, Favella Music, You and Me, Gifts of Unknown Things, Let Me Make Something in Your Life (on the first Steve Winwood solo album)

The Eagles also had success with Love Will Keep Us Alive on their Hell Freezes Over album in 1994 which Jim wrote with Paul Carrack and Peter Vale.

He reunited with Dave Mason in 1998 and a live album The 40,000 Headmen Tour was released.

The four original members of Traffic were inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame on the 15 March 2004.

If you had asked me in 1978 who I would most like to meet it would be Jim Capaldi. Years later when attending a concert remembering Clifford T Ward in the English Midlands, a friend Roy introduced me to Clive Edwards, who was performing at the event. While chatting he mentioned being friends with Jim’s brother Phil.

As fate would have it Jim was to play an intimate gig in the Marrs Bar in Worcester on Sunday 16 November 2003. Our friends Roy and Clive, my brother Michael and I attended a special night to remember. We were there for the soundcheck and during the gig the band were joined by Steve Winwood. Afterwards we met and chatted with Jim. Dreams Do Come True.

While checking the teletext on the night of 28 January 2005 I read that Jim Capaldi had died of stomach cancer, aged 60. It was hard to believe. I recall ringing my brother and reliving the memories.

Jim married Brazilian born Aninha in 1975, they had two daughters Tabitha and Tallulah. Aninha organised a tribute concert in his memory Dear Mr. Fantasy – A Celebration for Jim Capaldi at the Roundhouse in Camden, London on Sunday 21st January 2007. Many well known music friends of Jim were to perform at the event.

The concert raised funds for the charity Jubilee Action supporting the underprivileged children of Brazil. Jim’s social and environmental concerns can be clearly seen in his writing. It was a memorable night, shared with my friends, standing close to the stage celebrating the man and his music. The Roundhouse celebration concert was released on DVD and also a 2cd set.

In 2011 Dear Mr Fantasy – The Jim Capaldi Story, One of Rock’s Great Untold Stories was released. A 4 disc box set spanning his entire career, with extensive liner notes, photos and essays.

The following year the third tribute Mr Fantasy – The Lyrics of Jim Capaldi was released. Jim had been gathering his favourite lyrics together and writing notes to go with them. One of his last wishes was for Aninha to complete what he had started. The book included a facsimile of his hand written lyrics with photographs and new commentary from musicians and friends. Released by Genesis Publications it was a limited edition of 900 copies worldwide.

Welcome to the music of Jim Capaldi.

Explore  –  Enjoy

by Dave Burke

Dear Mr Fantasy is available in DVD and CD along with other albums by Jim Capaldi from Cork City Libraries

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