November 13, 2016

"I love you in a place where there's no space or time/I love you for in my life you are a friend of mine."

"And when my life is over/Remember when we were together/We were alone and I was singing this song for you..."



"Leon Russell died on Nov. 13, 2016 in Nashville at the age of 74. His wife said that he passed away in his sleep."

From the NYT obituary:
With a top hat on his head, hair well past his shoulders, a long beard, an Oklahoma drawl in his voice and his fingers splashing two-fisted barrelhouse piano chords, Mr. Russell cut a flamboyant figure in the early 1970s. He led Joe Cocker’s band Mad Dogs & Englishmen, appeared at George Harrison’s 1971 Concert for Bangladesh and had hits of his own, including “Tight Rope.” His songs also became hits for others, among them “Superstar” (written with Bonnie Bramlett) for the Carpenters, “Delta Lady” for Joe Cocker and “This Masquerade” for George Benson. More than 100 acts have recorded “A Song for You,” a song Mr. Russell said he wrote in 10 minutes.

By the time Mr. Russell released his first solo album in 1970, he had already played on hundreds of songs as one of the top studio musicians in Los Angeles. Mr. Russell was in Phil Spector’s Wall of Sound Orchestra, and he played sessions for Frank Sinatra, Sam Cooke, Aretha Franklin, the Ventures and the Monkees, among many others. He is heard on “Mr. Tambourine Man” by the Byrds, “A Taste of Honey” by Herb Alpert, “Live With Me” by the Rolling Stones and all of the Beach Boys’ early albums, including “Pet Sounds.”
Amazing. So many beautiful songs. All those connections.

37 comments:

Laslo Spatula said...

In the freeze-frame of Karen Carpenter ignore the hair, look at the face, and tell me she doesn't look like Leonard Cohen.

I am Laslo.

Ann Althouse said...

"In 1979 Mr. Russell married Janet Lee Constantine, who survives him along with six children: Blue, Teddy Jack, Tina Rose, Sugaree, Honey and Coco."

Ann Althouse said...

"Sugaree" is a Dead song.

Michael K said...

I loved Leon Russell. I saw him and Willie Nelson do a show about 15 years ago.

madAsHell said...

At one time in my life, if you couldn't find Leon Russell on the credits, then you didn't buy the record.

coupe said...

Died in his sleep in his 70's...

Trump better get his taxes done! Don't want to leave that for the kids to fight over.

Lyle Sanford, RMT said...

his version of "Hard Rain" just blew me away

Ann Althouse said...

"An injury to his upper vertebrae at birth caused a slight paralysis on his right side that would shape his music, since a delayed reaction time forced him to think ahead about what his right hand would play."

Bob said...

Karen Carpenter also did "Song for You" -- the purest voice ever in pop music (with maybe Whitney Houston as an equal, in a different style):

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=CQKnpJul8MU

David Begley said...

Laslo

She doesn't.

victoria said...

Loved him. One more time, watch the documentary on NETFLIX about the Wrecking Crew. Leon was part of that group. Not only a superb song writer, but a super musician. Loved him and his craggy, mellow voice. R.I.P. my friend.


Vicki from Pasadena

JAORE said...

How didso many of the musicians I grew up with get so old?

Oh.... yeah.

RIP, Leon. Thank God for quality recordings.

who-knew said...

Loved Leon's music. His first solo album was one of the first LPs I ever bought. I was just listening to his Greatest Hits CD and the songs were great indeed.

Bob said...

Leon was also responsible for Jimmy Buffett putting Key West on the music map.

surfed said...

Watch the "Wrecking Crew" free on Netflix. By way of example, knowing you're a Byrds fan, the WC are the entire band playing on the Byrds first album with the exception of McGuinn's 12 string dubbed in. Just the look on Peter Torks face 50 years later when he realized the album had already been cut and he wouldn't be playing on it is classic. Great music documentary. As is The film Muscle Shoals.

William said...

I respect his talent and liked some of his songs, but I never connected with him the way I did with, say, Leonard Cohen. There was a time when you only bought music you loved. I can't remember buying any of his albums.......These rockers are falling away in droves. Early seventies or late sixties seems to be closing time for most of them. If you're my age, that's not an intimation of mortality but a loud bell clanging in your ears......Leonard Cohen made it to 82 and left an attractive corpse. There's something to be said for the practice of zen.

SteveR said...

Vastly underrated. My favorite is "Back to the Island"

I'll watch the sun go down, and watch the sea roll in,

and I'll be thinking of you, and what we might have been"

boycat said...

Saw him at the Sports Arena in San Diego in 1972, and he was an excellent live act.

el polacko said...

such sad news to wake up to this morning ! the man was a musical genius and is a legend. rest in peace, mr. russell. the world is a lesser place without you.

lemondog said...

Leon, Willie and Ray

320Busdriver said...

That song....Superstar...and Karen Carpenter...wholeheartedly agree, the purest voice imaginable.
I never tire of that one.

Amexpat said...

"An injury to his upper vertebrae at birth caused a slight paralysis on his right side that would shape his music, since a delayed reaction time forced him to think ahead about what his right hand would play."

That makes sense. There's always been a cool jerkiness to his music. A slight hesitance before he hits the note. "Tight Rope" illustrates that.

Oso Negro said...

Oh geez. I saw Leon Russell at Armadillo World Headquarters in 1976 I think. Where the hell do the years go?

madAsHell said...

Leonard Cohen? No.
You've got the wrong Leonard. She looks like Leonard Nimoy.

rightguy2 said...

One minor correction to your excellent post; I have listened to the classic recording of Mr. Tambourine Man by the Byrds and have never "heard" Leon Russel's electric piano part.

Michael K said...

"Karen Carpenter...wholeheartedly agree, the purest voice imaginable.
I never tire of that one."

I remember when she was being criticized as "Too White" in her singing. I always thought her voice almost perfect.

Two singers I compare her with are Emmy Lou Harris and Joan Baez.

FWBuff said...

Karen Carpenter also did an achingly beautiful cover of "This Masquerade". She and Leon Russell clearly had a deep connection. https://youtu.be/5GChYjK8rIk

rightguy2 said...

Treat yourself and watch Mad Dogs and Englishmen. Leon is at the height of his powers as a bandleader, arranger (stride piano and horns on Cocker's classic cover of The Letter for starters), and as a performer (on lead guitar! astonishing, considering his particular disability).

hubert rainfield said...

Beautiful man, beautiful music. You have a very nice blog Ann Althouse

Will Cate said...

"A Song For You" -- not only Leon's best work, but just one of the best damn songs ever.

virgil xenophon said...

His album "Carney" was the first album of his I ever bought and I still think it's also his best.I especially liked "Tulsa Time."

320Busdriver said...

rightguy2 said
"Treat yourself and watch Mad Dogs and Englishmen."

I just listened to Rita Coolidge singing Superstar on that album, also very nice. Russell is on piano on that track and is superb.

Just realized that the Superstar track appearing on the "Carpenters" album was recorded when Karen sang the song for the first time, lyrics written by Richard on a napkin. One take. Unbelievable.

SukieTawdry said...

Oh no, not another one. This Masquerade is one of my favorite songs. Love George Benson and Karen Carpenter does a great version, too. And A Song For You has great meaning for me. I could just cry. In fact, I think I will.

Sam L. said...

I loved his version of The Mighty Quinn.

CuznDon said...

Always loved Leon’s music and style. His self titled album was one of the first albums I ever bought, AND still pay to this day. Colorful lyrics and an amazing sound. Leon was a soft spoken, gentle man, but his influence and talent was immense. HUGE. God rest his soul in peace.
“A Song for You” and “Hummingbird” ever remain my favs.

Kelley said...

One of my prized albums has long been Leon Russell's 'Hank Wilson's Back' ~ what an amazing interpreter of classic Country music. You can hear most of the songs from the album on YouTube. Here is a fine example of his talent: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=hCUj5yUB0nA

Lloyd W. Robertson said...

The Homewood Session 1970, recorded in a public TV studio in LA, just came up on my YouTube homepage. Very nice stuff, Russell with players and singers who backed up a lot of people, including Russell, but generally never became "famous": some were part of the Tulsa sound, some backed up Taj Mahal, some were part of Delaney Bonnie and Friends, George Harrison, etc. Shows the richness of the music scene at the time. Nice version of Song for You.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=4bwMqliLXZQ
https://theamazingkornyfonelabel.wordpress.com/tag/leon-russell-homewood-session-1970-kcet-bootlegs/