Singer-Songwriter Leon Russell Dies at 74

The musician and writer of “A Song for You,” “Delta Lady,” and more passed away on Sunday

November 14, 2016
Photo: Shelter Records

Singer-songwriter-pianist extraordinaire Leon Russell passed away on Sunday at the age of 74, according to an announcement on his official website. As remembered by Howard on Monday’s show, the Oklahoma-born musician is best known for penning such tunes as “Delta Lady,” “Superstar” (with Bonnie Bramlett) for the Carpenters, and “A Song for You,” which has been covered over 100 times.

Russell also possessed one of the most quietly accomplished music careers in his own right over the past five decades. Before becoming well known to the public, Russell started off as an extremely in-demand session musician in the Los Angeles area during the 1960s, playing on tracks for Frank Sinatra, Sam Cooke, Aretha Franklin, the Beach Boys, the Byrds, and the Rolling Stones, among many others. Once the 1970s rolled around, Russell stepped into his own spotlight, releasing a string of successful albums and leading Joe Cocker’s band on the notorious “Mad Dogs & Englishmen” tour, album, and film in 1970. Russell was also featured in George Harrison’s “Concert For Bangladesh” alongside the likes of Bob Dylan, Eric Clapton, Billy Preston, and Ringo Starr.

Over the years, Russell’s songs have been covered extensively, with Ray Charles’ 1993 cover of “A Song for You” winning a Grammy. In 2011, Russell collaborated with Elton John on the album “The Union,” which they also toured together behind. Russell was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 2011.

Russell had been facing health complications over the last few years, but his official cause of death is not yet known. Russell’s wife Jan Bridges has released the following statement on his official website :

“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.”

Russell is survived by Bridges, as well as his six children: Blue, Teddy Jack, Tina Rose, Sugaree, Honey, and Coco.

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