Ry Cooder was born on 15 March 1947 in Los Angeles, California. He began studying at age 3. During his teens, he spent much time at the center of the Los Angeles blues scene, the Ash Grove. By the time he was 16, he was regularly taking the stage. He also learned to play the banjo and mandolin and moved on to bottleneck guitar. This would become his trademark. In 1982, Ry was described by Rolling Stone magazine as “the finest, most precise bottleneck player alive today.”
In 1964, Taj Mahal visited the Ash Grove in search of new musical ideas and formed a duo called The Rising Sons. They began recording an album, but Taj Mahal disappeared when it was half finished. After several more years of working on the Los Angeles music scene, Ry established himself as a session musician in the late ’60s. He played in Captain Beefheart’s Magic Band and has accompanied artists as diverse as Paul Revere and the Raiders, Gordon Lightfoot, The Rolling Stones (on their album Let It Bleed), Randy Newman, John Lee Hooker and Little Feat.
He recorded his first solo album in 1970 and began a decades-long partnership with drummer, Jim Keltner. Other solo albums followed.
In 1983, producer Tom Dowd brought Ry into the studio to work with Eric Clapton on sessions which would become Money & Cigarettes.
An expert on World Music, he has devoted himself to the study of Country, Folk, Calypso, Hawaiian music, Salsa, Jazz, Ragtime and Vaudeville. Ry has also enjoyed much success as a composer of film scores. His first film score was the 1969 movie, Candy. Other credits include Performance (starring Mick Jagger), The Long Riders, Geronimo, and Paris, Texas.
His most acclaimed work is the Buena Vista Social Club, a multi-artist collaborative project.