Leon Russell (born Claude Russell Bridges; April 2, 1942 – November 13, 2016) was an American musician and songwriter who was involved with numerous bestselling pop music records during his 60-year career. His genres included pop, country, rock, folk, gospel, bluegrass, rhythm and blues, folk rock, blues rock, surf, standards, and Tulsa Sound.
His collaborations rank as some of the most successful in music history, and as a touring musician he performed with hundreds of notable artists. He recorded 33 albums and at least 430 songs. He wrote “Delta Lady”, recorded by Joe Cocker, and organized and performed with Cocker’s Mad Dogs and Englishmen tour in 1970. His “A Song for You”, added to the Grammy Hall of Fame in 2018, has been recorded by more than 200 artists, and his “This Masquerade” by more than 75.
As a pianist, he played in his early years on albums by The Beach Boys, Dick Dale and Jan and Dean. On his first album, Leon Russell, in 1970, the musicians included Eric Clapton, Ringo Starr, and George Harrison. One of his biggest early fans, Elton John, said Russell was a “mentor” and an “inspiration”.They recorded their album The Union in 2010, which earned them a Grammy nomination.
Russell produced and played in recording sessions for, among others Bob Dylan, Frank Sinatra, Ike & Tina Turner, and The Rolling Stones. He wrote and recorded the hits “Tight Rope” and “Lady Blue”. He performed at The Concert for Bangladesh in 1971 along with Harrison, Dylan, and Clapton, for which he earned a Grammy Award.
His recordings earned six gold records. He received two Grammy awards from seven nominations. In 2011, he was inducted into both the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame and the Songwriters Hall of Fame.
Russell died in his sleep at his suburban Nashville home in Mt. Juliet, Tennessee, on November 13, 2016, at the age of 74, his wife said in a statement on his website. In 2010, he had undergone surgery, and in July 2016 he suffered a heart attack. He was recovering from heart surgery. Russell’s funeral was on November 18 at Victory Baptist Church in Mt. Juliet, Tennessee, and a public memorial was held at The Oral Roberts University Mabee Center on November 20 in Tulsa, Oklahoma. He is interred at the Memorial Park Cemetery in Tulsa, Oklahoma.