In this deadly year for Rock’n’Roll, another legend is gone.
Lawton, Oklahoma born Claude Russell Bridges, better known as Leon Russell, singer, multi-instrumentalist, composer and record producer died in his sleep last night in Nashville at his 74 years.
He had an absolute leading-role in the 70’s rock scene inspiring and collaborating with such a great artists as Joe Cocker (he was ringmaster of Mad Dogs & Englishmen revue tour in 1970), Elton John, George Harrison, Eric Clapton, Ringo Starr, John Lennon, Bob Dylan, The Rolling Stones, B.B. King and many many more.
Instead of the usual copy & paste biography, our best possible way to pay a proper tribute to his seminal contribution to the music we love, is to revisit some highlights of his incredible, five decade spanning career.
- ‘A Song For You’ an ageless ballad from his 1970 self titled debut album. A clearly inspiration for Elton John who tweeted yesterday ‘”He was a mentor, inspiration & so kind to me. I loved him and always will”
- ‘Delta Lady’ from Joe Cocker’s self titled 1969 debut album produced and arranged by Leon himself. This song was Russell’s first success and was covered also by the likes of The Beatles, Leonard Cohen and Bob Dylan.
- ‘Cry Me A River’ the Arthur Hamilton’s 50’s classic from Joe Cocker’s ‘Mad Dogs & Englishmen’ legendary live album. This performance was filmed at the Berlin Metropol 31 October, 1970.
- ‘This Masquerade’ originally the b-side of 1972 Leon’s hit ‘Tight Rope‘. This George Benson’s version (also The Carpenters recorded their own one) won the 1976 Grammy Award for record of the year
- ‘Wild Horses’ Leon’s version The Rolling Stones’ classic from his 1981 live album with New Grass Revival. Leon said that Gram Parsons suggested he had to sing this song and his infamous cocked top hat he wore at the Mad Dogs and Englishmen show was a gift from Gram too.
- ‘Out In The Woods’ Dr. John-flavoured song from Leon’s 1972 third solo studio album ‘Carney’
- ‘She Thinks I still care’ the country & Western side of Leon with his cover version (feat. JJ Cale) of Sun Records’ Dickey Lee classic from the 1973 album ‘Hank Wilson’s Back Vol. I’
- ‘Lady Blue’ originally from his 1975 album ‘Will O’ The Wisp’. This live version got the unforgettable Edgar Winter on sax!
- ‘If It wasn’t For Bad’ finally the long-standing relationship disciple/master between the two great piano-men and musicians materializes in 2010, T Bone Burnett produced ‘The Union’, still fresh gospel-tinged excellent stuff, a breath of fresh especially for the younger and for too long uninspiring Sir Elton.
- ‘Superstar’ (1994) Sonic Youth’s version of Leon’s 1969 classic famous for being also covered by The Carpenters.
- Let’s end with the amazing late tribute from our beloved Amy Winehouse of the Leon Russell classic ‘A Song For You’
While writing this brief tribute, I’ve realised how I had shamefully forgotten, the invaluable and timeless Leon Russell’s influence on the Rock’n’Roll history, his nickname “The Master of Space and Time” could’t have been more appropriate to suggest his seminal heritage he’s going to have for the generations to come.