Leon Russell

Happy Birthday

Claude Russell Bridges
April 2, 1942
Lawton, Oklahoma

Leon Russell (born Claude Russell Bridges) was an American singer-songwriter, multi-instrumentalist, and producer. 

His collaborations rank as some of the most successful in music history, and as a touring musician he performed with hundreds of notable artists. He recorded 33 albums and at least 430 songs. He wrote "Delta Lady", recorded by Joe Cocker, and organized and performed with Cocker's Mad Dogs and Englishmen tour in 1970. His "A Song for You", added to the Grammy Hall of Fame in 2018, has been recorded by more than 200 artists, and his "This Masquerade" by more than 75.

Russell was born in Lawton, Oklahoma, and began playing the piano at the age of four. Russell began his musical career at the age of 14 in the nightclubs of Tulsa, Oklahoma. Leon was instrumental in developing the Tulsa sound. 

After moving to Los Angeles in 1958, Russell became a session musician, working as a pianist on the recordings of many notable 1960s musical artists. 

Russell played as a first-call studio musician on many of the most popular songs of the 1960s, including some by The Byrds, Gary Lewis & the Playboys, Bobby Pickett, and Herb Alpert. He also played piano on many Phil Spector productions, including recordings by The Ronettes, The Crystals, and Darlene Love and in the 1963 A Christmas Gift for You from Phil Spector album. He can be seen in the 1964 concert film T.A.M.I. Show playing piano with The Wrecking Crew, sporting short, dark, slicked-back hair, in contrast to his later look. Soon after, he was hired as Snuff Garrett's assistant and creative developer, playing on numerous number-one singles, including "This Diamond Ring" by Gary Lewis & the Playboys.
Russell performed as a member of Delaney & Bonnie and Friends in 1969 and 1970, playing guitar and keyboards on their albums and as part of the touring band. Through this group, he met George Harrison and others with whom he would work over the next couple of years. 

Russell's first commercial success as a songwriter came when Joe Cocker recorded the song "Delta Lady" for his 1969 album, Joe Cocker! The album, co-produced and arranged by Russell, reached number 11 on the Billboard 200. Russell went on to organize and perform in (playing either piano or lead guitar) the 1970 Mad Dogs and Englishmen tour, using many of the musicians from Delaney and Bonnie's band. "Superstar", co-written by Russell, was sung by The Carpenters and other performers.

During the Mad Dogs and Englishmen tour, Shelter Records released his 1970 solo album, Leon Russell, which included the first recording of "A Song for You". This has become one of his best-known songs, with versions released by more than 40 different artists, including Billy Eckstine, The Carpenters, Ray Charles, Peggy Lee, Willie Nelson, Helen Reddy, Whitney Houston, Elkie Brooks, Amy Winehouse, Donny Hathaway, and Christina Aguilera. Both The Carpenters and The Temptations named an album after the song. Leon Russell album had a number of guest vocalist and accompaniment: Chris Stainton, Bonnie Bramlett, Greg Dempsey, Bob Dylan, Marc Benno, Eric Clapton, Mick Jagger, Keith Richards, George Harrison, Ringo Starr, Joe Cocker, and Merry Clayton.

Leon was a huge part of The concert for Bangladesh in 1971 at MSG in NYC. 

Russell developed a lifelong friendship with Elton John and Elton considered Leon a huge mentor and influence. In 2010, they finally worked together and released the double album, "The Union". "The Union" was nominated for a Grammy, and the duo went on tour to support the album. 

Russell had such a soulful unique voice, and his piano playing was incredible. He was an amazing songwriter, arranger and producer as well. The world is a better place thanks to Leon Russel's  musical contributions.

Russell died in his sleep at his suburban Nashville home in Mt. Juliet, Tennessee, on November 13, 2016, at the age of 74.

Remembering Leon Russell on his birthday. Thank You for the music Sir!

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