Born John Weldon Cale in Oklahoma City, he cut a wide path through 1970s rock 'n' roll, influencing some of the most famous musicians at the time with songs that were laid back and mellow, yet imbued with a driving groove.
Neil Young, Mark Knopfler and Bryan Ferry are among his many fans in the music world.
A former member of the Grand Ole Opry touring company, Cale never rose to the level of success of his admirers, but his fingerprints could be heard all over the genre in the 1970s, and his music remains influential.
His album with Eric Clapton "The Road to Escondido" won a Grammy for Best Contemporary Blues Album in 2007.
In 2006, Cale told the AP in an interview "I'd probably be selling shoes today if it wasn't for Eric."
Clapton also recorded Cale's "Cocaine," ''Travelin' Light" and "I'll Make Love To You Anytime."
Artists including Santana, Johnny Cash and The Allman Brothers have all covered Cale's songs.
Cale was asked on his website if it bothers him that "contemporaries and critics list him amongst legends, and fans might love his songs yet not even know his name?"
"No, it doesn't bother me," he said with a laugh. "What's really nice is when you get a check in the mail."
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