Leon Russell R.I.P. - "I've acted out my life on stages with 10,000 people watching"


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Leon Russell wrote songs so well crafted that even the first time you heard them, you swore that you've heard them before.  It was not that they were't unique- they usually were- it was that they touched something hiding deep inside you.

Leon Russell, a prolific artist, songwriter and producer, who recorded hits such as “Tight Rope" and “Lady Blue" has died. He was 74.

A statement released on Sunday by Russell's wife Jan Bridges said:

“We thank everyone for their thoughts and prayers during this very, very difficult time. My husband passed in his sleep in our Nashville home. He was recovering from heart surgery in July and looked forward to getting back on the road in January. We appreciate everyone’s love and support.”

Born Claude Russell Bridges in Tulsa, Oklahoma, Russell got his start in the music world at an early age and by 14 he was playing local nightclubs with the Starlighters, which included J.J. Cale, Leo Feathers, Chuck Blackwell and Johnny Williams, helping to define what would come to be known as the Tulsa Sound.

After re-locating to Los Angeles, Russell played mostly as a side and session man through the 1960s, playing on numerous hit records, including “This Diamond Ring" by Gary Lewis and the Playboys. He also sharpened his songwriting chops, co-writing hits for artists such as Joe Cocker and Rita Coolidge.

Russell also performed as a solo artist, both as Leon Russell and on the country and western circuit as Hank Wilson.

Leon led Joe Cocker's ‘Mad Dogs & Englishmen’ tour and performed with George Harrison and Friends at the Concert For Bangladesh. Leon has also toured with Delaney & Bonnie and Friends, Edgar Winter, The New Grass Revival, Willie Nelson and Sir Elton John.

Leon’s last performance was July 10 in Nashville, but he was forced to cancel his tour after suffering a heart attack.

Russell's songwriting credits include 'A Song For You', ‘Delta Lady’, ‘Hummingbird’, ‘Lady Blue’, ‘Back To The Island’, ‘Tight Rope’, and ‘This Masquerade’.

Russell was inducted into both the Rock and Roll Hall Of Fame and the Songwriter's Hall of Fame in 2011. 

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