Sunday, November 13, 2016

RIP Leon Russell

In 2011, Leon Russell was the first artist inducted into the Rock Hall under the Musical Excellence Category.  Thanks to a push from Elton John, who had released a duet album with Russell in 2010.
Russell would have gotten in on his own, but he was still a good first choice.  In the 60's he was a session musician on Phil Spector-produced sessions.

The best Leon Russell years were the early 70's.  His first albums were a great brew of what we now call Americana, with a more soulful twist.  He also put together the band and was musical director on Joe Cocker's 1970 double live album, Mad Dogs and Englishmen, which chronicles the crazy tour that Cocker once said almost killed him.

He only had 2 Top 40 songs, 1972's "Tight Rope" and 75's, "Lady Blue", and a #1 Country single in 1979 with Willie Nelson on a cover of "Heartbreak Hotel".  But it's as a songwriter that Russell has built his legacy on.  He was inducted in the Songwriters Hall of Fame in 2011.
Among the artists who had hits with his songs:  George Benson ("This Masquerade"), Donny Hathaway ("Song For You"), Carpenters ("Superstar"), B.B. King ("Hummingbird"), Joe Cocker ("Delta Lady").

Favorite Songs:
Back To The Island
Delta Lady
Heartbreak Hotel w/Willie Nelson
Home Sweet Oklahoma
If It Wasn't For Bad  w/Elton John
Lady Blue
Out In The Woods
Roll Away The Stone
Shoot Out On The Plantation
Song For You
Stranger In A Strange Land
This Masquerade
Tight Rope

Among his albums I recommend:
Leon Russell  (1970)
Leon Russell and the Shelter People  (1971)
Carney  (1972)
One For The Road  w/ Willie Nelson  (1979)
Union  w/ Elton John  (2010)

1997's Retrospective is a concise single disc of some of his best songs.
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