Leon Russell: A Half-Century Of Musical Greatness
Leon Russell passed away late Saturday night at the age of 74. He was still touring right up until this past Spring when heart surgery intervened. Russell first made his mark as a songwriter, contributing hit titles to 60s pop group Gary Lewis & The Playboys- "She's Just My Style" & "Everybody Loves A Clown". The Carpenters' "Superstar" was Leon's writing creation. He also wrote "Delta Lady" for Joe Cocker, then served as musical director for Cocker's "Mad Dogs & Englishmen" tour that turned into a smash live double-album & film.
Throughout this same 60s-early 70s period, Russell was in demand as a session musician, primarily on keyboards. You can hear his work on "California Girls" (Beach Boys), "Be My Baby" (The Ronettes), "Mr. Tambourine Man" (The Byrds) & "Day After Day" (Badfinger), just to name a few. He also performed at George Harrison's legendary "Concert for Bangladesh". By the mid-70s Leon Russell was a solo star, with two huge hits: "Lady Blue" & "Tightrope". He continued writing, producing, & performing for the next 4 decades. Leon's compositions "A Song For You" & "This Masquerade" have been recorded by dozens of stars around the world. In 2011, Russell was inducted into the Songwriters Hall Of Fame. He also received a special Award Of Music Excellence from the Rock & Roll Hall Of Fame.