Rita Coolidge On Upcoming Autobiography And Being 'The Delta Lady'

Feb 20, 2015

Rita Coolidge spoke with Steve Kraske at KCUR studios.
Credit Lisa Rodriguez / KCUR

Rita Coolidge is rock royalty in this country, performing with the likes of Leon Russell, Joe Cocker, Bob Dylan, Jimi Hendrix, and Eric Clapton, not to mention her former husband, Kris Kristofferson, with whom she won two Grammy Awards. 

In the late 1970s she notched four consecutive top 25 hits, but more recently, she’s made albums in tribute to her Cherokee heritage and is writing her autobiography, set to come out next year. She gave the keynote speech Thursday in Kansas City at the International Folk Alliance Conference, and appeared on Up To Date Friday with Steve Kraske. 

Here are some highlights of the interview: 

On being dubbed "The Delta Lady":

“It came from the song that Leon (Russell) wrote that Joe (Cocker) recorded, "The Delta Lady", and it kind of became my handle on the Cocker album that was released. The pictures of everybody are on the back and under mine it's “Delta lady”. He [Leon Russell] wrote a few songs for me. He wrote ‘Song for You’ for me, he wrote 'Hummingbird’ for me. I guess I be the muse. There were some wonderful songs, but I think Leon’s were the most beautiful.”

On touring with Jimi Hendrix: 

"He was just the sweetest man in the world. He was incredibly powerful when he played guitar. It was just almost too much to even be in the room. It was so over the top incredibly perfect. His taste in the notes he chose were as cool as he was."

On a violent encounter with former boyfriend, drummer Jim Gordon:

"Jim Gordon was a drummer in California ... He was so in-demand in the last 60s and 70s and he was one of the drummers on the Joe Cocker tour and Jim Gordon and I had become boyfriend and girlfriend.  I think I always saw something behind his eyes that wasn’t just right. And on the Joe Cocker tour one night we were sitting in Carl Radle's room, the bassist. And Jim said ‘Come here, lets just step out in the hall for a minute, I want to tell you something.’ And we go out in the hall and he just cold cocked me. He was 6’5”. Hit me so hard that I hit the wall and slid down … I did the rest of the tour with a black eye, covered very carefully with makeup... Jim to this day is in a psychiatric ward in lock up. That's just one of the stories in my book. I don't know if that makes you want to read it or run from it."