Rocker Leon Rus­sell dies at 74 in Nashville

Daily Freeman (Kingston, NY) - - NATION+WORLD - On­line, visit www. leon­rus­sell­records.com/ news.shtml

NASHVILLE, TENN. (AP) » Leon Rus­sell, who per­formed, sang and pro­duced some of rock ‘n’ roll’s top records, has died. He was 74.

Rus­sell’s wife, Jan Bridges, said in a state­ment that her hus­band died in his sleep Sun­day at their Nashville home. She said Rus­sell had heart by­pass surgery in July and had been plan­ning on re­sum­ing tour­ing in Jan­uary.

His fi­nal per­for­mance was July 10 in Nashville.

Be­sides his mu­sic, Rus­sell was known for his strik­ing ap­pear­ance: wispy white hair half­way down his back and that cov­ered much of his face.

“A true pa­tri­arch has been lost,” said Beau Char­ron, Rus­sell’s gui­tar and pedal steel player, said in a state­ment. “Leon Rus­sell fathered many mu­si­cians and fans thru life and love with his mu­sic. On his own terms. My years with him have shaped me in pro­found ways, and I am heart­bro­ken to lose my men­tor and friend.”

Tributes poured in from en­ter­tain­ers who ap­pre­ci­ated Rus­sell’s gospel-in­fused south­ern boo­gie pi­ano rock, blues and coun­try mu­sic.

On Twit­ter, Cat Stevens wrote that Rus­sell was “a great in­flu­ence and song­writer.” Char­lie Daniels said Rus­sell “left a lot of great mu­sic be­hind.” And Richard Marx tweeted: “What an ex­tra­or­di­nary mes­sen­ger of beauty he was.”

Rus­sell played key­board for the Los Angeles stu­dio team known as the Wreck­ing Crew, help­ing pro­ducer Phil Spec­tor de­velop his game-chang­ing wall of sound ap­proach in the 1960s.

He wrote Joe Cocker’s “Delta Lady” and in 1969 put to­gether Cocker’s “Mad Dogs and English­men” tour, which spawned a doc­u­men­tary film and a hit dou­ble al­bum.

As a mu­si­cian, pri­mar­ily a pi­anist, he played on The Beach Boys’ “Cal­i­for­nia Girls” and land­mark “Pet Sounds” al­bum, Jan and Dean’s “Surf City,” the Ronettes’ “Be My Baby,” and the Byrds’ “Mr. Tam­bourine Man.” He also played gui­tar and bass.

Rus­sell pro­duced and played on record­ing ses­sions for Bob Dy­lan, Frank Si­na­tra, Ike and Tina Turner, the Rolling Stones and many oth­ers. He ar­ranged the Turn­ers’ “River Deep, Moun­tain High.”

He also recorded hit songs like “Tight Rope” and “Lady Blue” and par­tic­i­pated in “The Con­cert for Bangladesh.” John Len­non, Ringo Starr and Ge­orge Har­ri­son played on his first al­bum, “Leon Rus­sell.”

Later, Ray Charles, Aretha Franklin and Wil­lie Nel­son were among those to cover Rus­sell’s bal­lad “A Song for You” that he wrote for the al­bum.

His con­certs of­ten ended with a rous­ing ver­sion of “Jumpin’ Jack Flash.” In 1973, Bill­board Mag­a­zine listed Rus­sell as the top con­cert at­trac­tion in the world. About this time, he was the head­line act on billings that in­cluded El­ton John and at other times Wil­lie Nel­son.

In a 1992 in­ter­view with The As­so­ci­ated Press, Rus­sell said mu­sic doesn’t re­ally change much.

“It’s cycli­cal, like fash­ion. You keep your old clothes and they’ll be in style again sooner or later.

“There are new things, like rap. But that’s a rebirth of poetry. It’s brought poetry to the pub­lic con­scious­ness.”

In 2011, Rus­sell was cho­sen for in­duc­tion into the Song­writ­ers Hall of Fame. He also was hon­ored with an Award for Mu­sic Ex­cel­lence from the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame.

He and El­ton John re­leased “The Union,” a crit­i­cally re­ceived duo al­bum in 2010.

“He was a men­tor, in­spi­ra­tion and so kind to me,” El­ton John said in a Face­book post Sun­day. “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.”

Born Claude Rus­sell Bridges in Law­ton, Ok­la­homa, Rus­sell be­gan as a night­club pi­ano player in Ok­la­homa at the age of 14, also back­ing tour­ing artists when they came to town. Jerry Lee Lewis was so im­pressed with Rus­sell that he hired Rus­sell and his band for two years of tours.

He re­lo­cated to Los Angeles in 1959, where he be­came known as a top mu­si­cian, and later to Nashville.

In the early 2000s he be­gan his own record la­bel, Leon Rus­sell Records.

SUE OGROCKI — THE AS­SO­CI­ATED PRESS, FILE

In this Jan. 29, 2013, photo, re­porters are re­flected in the sun­glasses of Leon Rus­sell as he an­swers a ques­tion at a news con­fer­ence in Tulsa, Okla.

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from USA

© PressReader. All rights reserved.