American singer/songwriter Leon Russell has died in Nashville at the age of 74. A post on his Facebook page on the morning on Sunday, November 13 read: "Musician Leon Russell has died in Nashville at the age of 74. His wife said he died in his sleep.”
Russell was still active in his 70s, touring regularly. He has been on the road in 2016 and had a tour scheduled in 2017. Russell rose to fame in the late '60s-early '70s as a songwriter, a performer and a band leader. Born in 1942 in Lawton, Oklahoma and studied piano at an early age. In the late 50s-early 60s he worked as a session musician in Los Angeles before establishing himself as a songwriter and then as a solo act.
He released his first solo single in 1965 (Everybody’s Talking ‘Bout the Young on Dot Records). He had a major break as a songwriter when Joe Cocker recorded his song Delta Lady on his 1969 album Joe Cocker!, which was co-produced and arranged by Russell. Subsequently, Russell put together a band for Cocker’s 1970’s tour, Mad Dogs and Englishmen, which included guitarist Don Preston, bass guitarist Carl Radle, Chris Stainton on organ, Jim Gordon and Jm Keltner on drums, Rita Coolidge on vocals, among others. The tour was documented in Joe Cocker’s double live album Mad Dogs & Englishmen, out in 1970 on A&M Records.
It is only in 1970 that Russell cut his first self-titled solo album on Shelter Records, which contained the hits A Song For You and Roll Away The Stone. He would follow up with Leon Russell and the Shelter People in 1971, Carney in 1972 with the hit single Tight Rope, and 1975’s Will O’ the Wisp with the hit Lady Blue.
Leon Russell had established and maintained a close relationship with many British artists. Aside from Cocker, he collaborated with George Harrisson, in particular during the Madison Square Garden charity show Concert For Bangladesh in 1971, Badfinger, Ringo Starr, Eric Clapton, the Rolling Stones as well as Elton John with whom he release the album The Union in 2010 on Decca/Mercury.
In 2011, Russell was inducted both into the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame and the Songwriters Hall of Fame.