Rocker Leon Russell Dead at 74

Music icon was recovering from heart bypass surgery
By Newser Editors and Wire Services
Posted Nov 13, 2016 11:02 AM CST
Rocker Leon Russell Dead at 74
FILE - In this Jan. 29, 2013, file photo, Leon Russell waves as he is introduced in Tulsa, Okla. Russell, who sang, wrote and produced some of rock 'n' roll's top records, has died.    (Sue Ogrocki)

Leon Russell, who sang, wrote, and produced some of rock 'n' roll's top records, has died. He was 74. An email from Leon Russell Records to the AP says Russell died in Nashville "last night," citing Russell's wife. Russell had heart bypass surgery in July and was recovering at the time of his death. He had been planning on resuming touring in January, the email said. Russell's website says the musician died Sunday, also citing his wife. Besides his music, Russell was known for his striking appearance: wispy white hair halfway down his back and covering much of his face. He wrote Joe Cocker's "Delta Lady" and in 1969 put together Cocker's "Mad Dogs and Englishmen" tour, which spawned a hit double album and a documentary. As a musician, primarily a pianist, he played on the Beach Boys' "California Girls" and Jan and Dean's "Surf City." He also played guitar and bass.

Russell produced and played on recording sessions for Bob Dylan, Frank Sinatra, Ike and Tina Turner, the Rolling Stones, and many others. He recorded hit songs himself like "Tight Rope" and "Lady Blue" and participated in "The Concert for Bangla Desh." John Lennon, Ringo Starr, and George Harrison played on his first album, Leon Russell. His concerts often ended with a rousing version of "Jumpin' Jack Flash." "It's cyclical, like fashion," he told the AP in 1992, commenting on the changelessness of music. "You keep your old clothes and they'll be in style again sooner or later. "There are new things, like rap. But that's a rebirth of poetry. It's brought poetry to the public consciousness." In 2011, Russell was inducted into the Songwriters Hall of Fame. He also was honored with an Award for Music Excellence from the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame. (More obituary stories.)

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