2016 is ending much like it started — with more sadness in the music world. Songwriter, singer, arranger, pianist and session guitarist Leon Russell has died at the age of 74. The Oklahoma native, whose real name was Claude Russell Bridges, died in his sleep at home in Nashville.
A post on his website recaps some of his many career achievements:
“Leon was inducted into both the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame and the Songwriter’s Hall of Fame in 2011.
“Leon led the famous Joe Cocker‘s Mad Dogs & Englishmen tour and performed with George Harrison at the Concert for Bangladesh. Leon also toured with Delaney & Bonnie and Friends, Edgar Winter, Willie Nelson, and Sir Elton John.” He was also responsible for the hits by Gary Lewis and the Playboys and worked extensively with Phil Spector.
“Leon’s songwriting credits include ‘A Song for You.’ ‘Delta Lady,’ ‘Hummingbird,’ ‘Lady Blue,’ ‘Back to the Island,’ ‘Tight Rope’ and ‘This Masquerade.’”
In addition to his own recording career, Russell was also a top session musician. A member of the legendary group of studio musicians known as The Wrecking Crew, Leon played on recordings by The Beach Boys, The Byrds, Frank Sinatra, The Rolling Stones and countless others.
Russell made a comeback in 2010 when Elton John, who cites Leon as a major influence, recorded an album, The Union, with him. The two hit the road together and a 2011 documentary about their collaboration was released.
Russell suffered a heart attack in July and postponed the rest of his summer dates. He was scheduled to be part of the Rock Legends 5, which sets sail in January.
This story is still developing, but the first artist to reach out with a comment is Graham Nash, who tells us, “A brilliant musician, a fine man… very influential.” David Crosby called him “a great talent.”
Elton John: “My darling Leon Russell passed away last night. He was a mentor, inspiration and so kind to me. Thank God we caught up with each other and made The Union. He got his reputation back and felt fulfilled. I loved him and always will.”