Monday’s Music Moves Me: RIP Leon Russell

Today’s “freebie” coincides with the passing of a great pianist, singer, songwriter, and even guitar player, Leon Russell, who died peacefully at home in Nashville yesterday.

He had been around since the late Fifties, but the first I heard of him was as bandleader for Joe Cocker’s 1969 “Mad Dogs and Englishmen” tour. I think I played the grooves off that double album. The first big single from that was “The Letter”; Leon is playing piano here (he’s the one in the top hat).

I sat up late one evening watching “The Homewood Sessions – Leon Russell & Friends” on WTTW when I was a sophomore in high school. One of the songs he did that night was “A Song For You,” which has been covered by many artists and might be his most famous song.

I got a copy of his 1972 album, Carney, for Christmas that year. It wasn’t my favorite album, but I played it a lot, and two of the songs really stuck with me, both from the B side of the album (where all the weird stuff on albums used to go). One was “Magic Mirror.”

The other was “This Masquerade,” later a huge hit for George Benson.

He made 31 solo albums and collaborated on many others, and would show up from time to time backing other musicians. He and Edgar Winter toured together in the late Eighties; here’s “Harlem Nocturne” from that tour.

Elton John, who had once been Leon’s opening act, said this of him: “He was my biggest influence as a piano player, a singer and a songwriter.” On hearing of his passing, John said “My darling Leon Russell passed away last night. He was a mentor, inspiration and so kind to me.”

Farewell and Godspeed, Leon Russell.

Monday’s Music Moves Me is sponsored by X-Mas Dolly, Callie, Stacy, Cathy, and Naila Moon, so be sure and visit them, where you can also find the Linky for the other participants.


23 thoughts on “Monday’s Music Moves Me: RIP Leon Russell

      1. I am going to link to this post tomorrow for my Music Monday. I’m still recovering from Kate McKinnon singing “Hallelujah” on Saturday Night Live.


  1. I’d been traveling since last Wednesday, John. Very busy, and I missed this sad news. At dinner on Friday, with my brother and daughter, we were talking about music in the early 70s. I loved “Tightrope” then, and it has remained a favorite of mine. I am very sad that he is gone. R.I.P. Leon.


      1. That’s funny. The story I was telling was about leaving a radio on at night when I lived alone in a noisy 3-family house. I heard if mostly on the radio, but it was one I didn’t mind hearing.


  2. Hi John, I read your comment on my Post & by the way you can too dance. Whether it be with your feet, your heart or in your mind everyone dances. Y’all come by me to express yourself through song just as the musicians do through their song, but it’s really what their heart expresses. Thanks for sharing your heart through song.


  3. Had no idea that Leon Russell wrote these songs. I love Masquerade and Song for You but thought the Carpenters were responsible for them. I lead a sheltered life. The passing of all the greats is another reason we go to so many concerts. Have to catch them before they’re gone. Thanks for sharing.


    1. Sometimes I’m surprised by who actually wrote a song, too. I learn a lot doing this blogging thing.

      I know what you mean. We’ve lost a good number of artists this past year.


  4. I played and sang “The Letter” and “Feelin’ Alright” onstage in 1975. Copping Leon Russell’s licks and style taught me a lot about playing rock keyboards. His death is a reminder, along with Glenn Frey’s and David Bowie’s, that none of us lasts forever, contrary to the beliefs of a 19 year old.


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