Three years ago today, on November 13th, 2016, Leon Russell passed away in his sleep. The American musician and songwriter was a “master of space and time” who is best known for his work in the 1970s as a studio pianist and songwriter.
His first commercial success as a songwriter came when Joe Cocker recorded “Delta Lady” for his 1969 self-titled album. Joe Cocker was co-produced and arranged by Russell and reached #11 on the Billboard 200. He went on to organize and perform in the 1970 Mad Dogs and Englishmen tour. During that time, he released his solo album Leon Russell which included “A Song For You. “A Song For You” became one of his best-known songs, with over 40 versions performed and recorded by artists like Ray Charles, Peggy Lee, Helen Reddy, Willie Nelson, Whitney Houston, Amy Winehouse, Donny Hathaway, The Carpenters, and The Temptations. Earlier this year, a young entertainer who is blind and has autism captured the hearts of the nation on America’s Got Talent with his jaw-dropping rendition of the song.
Kodi Lee – America’s Got Talent – “A Song For You” [Leon Russell cover]
[Video: America’s Got Talent]
Russell had been touring heavily in 2016 up until his death, highlighted by a sit-in with Tedeschi Trucks Band at The Windy City’s Chicago Theatre. The esteemed pianist joined for two numbers, The Lovin’ Spoonful’s “Darlin’ Be Home Soon” and Titus Turner’s “Sticks & Stones”. Russell also joined the band the year prior at LOCKN’ Festival 2015, for their collaborative Mad Dogs & Englishmen tribute to Joe Cocker. Anchored by the Tedeschi Trucks Band, the group hosted an incredible lineup of special guests throughout the night, including Leon Russell, Dave Mason, Rita Coolidge, Chris Robinson, Doyle Bramhall II, John Bell, Alecia Chakour, and Warren Haynes.
Enjoy Leon Russell’s magical Tedeschi Trucks Band collaborations, as well as other choice videos, to celebrate The Master of Space and Time.
Tedeschi Trucks Band w/ Leon Russell – “Sticks & Stones”
[Video: Brian J. Leonard]
Leon Russell w/ John Mayer – “A Song For You”
[Video: Tony DeSanto]
J Cale & Leon Russell at the Paradise Studios in 1979
Elton John & Leon Russell on ‘CBS Sunday Morning’ 2010
[Video: Tony DeSanto]
Tedeschi Trucks Band and Friends – Mad Dogs & Englishmen
[Video: Tran Van]
[Originally published 11/13/18]