R.I.P. Leon Russell 1942-2016 - Noise11.com
Leon Russell performs at the Palais in St Kilda on 25 April 2011. Photo by Ros O'Gorman

Leon Russell. Photo by Ros O'Gorman

R.I.P. Leon Russell 1942-2016

by Paul Cashmere on November 14, 2016

in News

Leon Russell, the genius songwriter and musician, passed away in Nashville on Sunday (13 November, 2016) at the age of 74.

In a statement Leon’s wife Jan Bridges has announced, “We thank everyone for their thoughts and prayers during this very, very difficult time. My husband passed in his sleep in our Nashville home. He was recovering from heart surgery in July and looked forward to getting back on the road in January. We appreciate everyone’s love and support.”

Leon Russell was one of America’s greatest songwriters. Sir Elton John called his classic ‘A Song For You’ “an American classic”. It has been covered many times by artists from The Carpenters, Ray Charles, Willie Nelson, Danna Summer, Simply Red and Joe Cocker.

Leon rose to fame as the musical director for Joe Cocker’s ‘Mad Dogs and Englishmen’. He wrote one of Cocker’s biggest hits ‘Delta Lady’. It was his first commercial success.

Leon Russell was born in Lawton, Oklahoma on April 2, 1942. He was one of America’s most in-demand and respected musicians as his list of credits shows with artists like Eric Clapton, the Beach Boys, Ringo Starr, Frank Sinatra, Barbra Streisand and George Harrison using his services at various times on their recordings.

He made his first TV appearance in 1964 on ‘Shindig’ before the long hair and beard became his lifelong trademark look/

After 1970 Mad Dogs and Englishmen US tour Leon hooked up with George Harrison for The Concert For Bangla Desh. Bob Dylan also performed on the show. Russell then covered Dylan’s ‘A Hard Rain’s A Gonna Fall’ as a solo song and had his first stand-alone hit song.

Around that time Leon was working with the Rolling Stones and recorded an early version of what became ‘Shine A Light’ for Exile On Main Street’ as ‘Get A Line On You’.

As the 70s progressed, so did Leon’s ability to deliver great songs. George Benson had a hit with ‘This Masquerade’.

Leon made the album ‘One For The Road’ with Willie Nelson.

He also more recently made ‘The Union’ with Sir Elton John in 2010.

Leon Russell last toured Australia in April 2011. His last performance was 28 October 2016 in Carmel, IN.

In 2010 Leon had surgery to remove fluid on the brain. He suffered a heart attack in July this year.

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