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RIP Leon Russell 1942-2016

November 13, 2016

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Leon Russell (born Claude Russell Bridges; April 2, 1942 – November 13, 2016) by Ron Wells.

My first real arena concert was seeing Leon Russell in the early 70’s in Long Beach, CA.

It was here where I really learned the power of a rock concert thanks to Leon’s playing along with his powerful band and back-up singers. The show was recorded for a three album set called Leon Live, which I still own today.

I bought virtually everything he put out and still own seven vinyl albums by him. The beautiful “A Song for You” was the first song that captured my imagination. He wrote “Hummingbird” which became a huge hit for B.B. King and Delta Lady which Joe Cocker made his own. “Stranger in a Strange Land” rocked the world with its gospel soul and its theme of being an outsider. He co-wrote “Superstar” (with Bonnie Bramlett) which Rita Coolidge sang to perfection.

I would later learn that he was an intregal part of the Wrecking Crew, that dynamic group of LA musicians who played on what seemed like every pop hit that came out of Los Angeles in the 60’s. He played on many of the Beach Boys early songs as well as Dylan’s Watching the River Flow.

. He was a musician’s musician and he was everywhere.

Notable concerts included The T.A.M.I Show, the Mad Dogs and Englishmen tour, and George Harrison’s Concert for Bangladesh.

So today, from out of the distant past I hear his piano playing from above, my body begins to move, and his rock and roll heart enters my soul. He will be missed.

From “A Song for You” by Leon Russell:

I love you in a place where there’s no space and time
I love you for 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 to you

To a man who knew no space nor time, but sang his song for us, Rest in Peace, Leon Russell

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