A note from Molly Fortune, Executive Director:
Receiving the news that Leon Russell had passed away peacefully caused my head to fall into my hands. I grew up listening to his music in our house and our family was using this concert as a family reunion of sorts. His talent was beyond words and those he touched didn’t just work with him or record his music, they were everyday people, like you and me.
When a great artist passes and moves on to entertain those in Heaven, we mourn. Mourning is all that pent up love and adoration that has no place to go. But it does for us. Listen to his music, sing at the top of your lungs and thank God for such an amazing talent that has inspired several generations. And remember, some of those he inspired and wrote for will and have graced our mighty stage here in Newberry. Long live the whippoorwill Mr. Leon!
The official statement released by Leon's agent:
NASHVILLE, Tenn. (November 13, 2016) – Leon Russell, born Claude Russell Bridges, who sang, wrote and produced some of rock 'n' roll's top records, passed away Sunday, Nov.13 at the age of 74.
Leon’s wife, Jan Bridges, released the following statement:
Leon’s last performance was July 10 in Nashville.“We thank everyone for their thoughts and prayers during this very, very difficult time. My husband passed in his sleep in our Nashville home. He was recovering from heart surgery in July and looked forward to getting back on the road in January. We appreciate everyone’s love and support.”
Known as "The Master Of Space And Time," Leon was a legendary musician and songwriter who performed his gospel-infused southern boogie piano rock, blues, and country music for more than 50 years.
Leon, born in Lawton, Okla., began as a nightclub piano player in Oklahoma at the age of 14, also backing touring artists when they came to town. Jerry Lee Lewis was so impressed with Leon that he hired him and his band for two years of tours.
Leon has also toured with Delaney & Bonnie and Friends, Edgar Winter, The New Grass Revival, Willie Nelson, Sir Elton John and performed with George Harrison and Friends at the Concert For Bangladesh.
Leon 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 Bangladesh." Take a look at this jam session footage of "Come on in my Kitchen" featuring: George Harrison, Eric Clapton, Leon Russell and Ringo Starr. 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." In 1973, Billboard listed Leon as the top concert attraction in the world. About this time, he was the headline act on billings that included Elton John and at other times Willie Nelson.
In a 1992 interview with The Associated Press, Leon said music doesn't really change much."It's cyclical, like fashion. 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."
He and Elton John released The Union, a critically received duo album in 2010.
Besides his music, Leon was known for his striking appearance: wispy white hair halfway down his back and that covered much of his face.
Leon relocated to Los Angeles in 1959, where he became known as a top musician, and later to Nashville.
In the early 2000s he began his own record label, Leon Russell Records. Leon was inducted into both the Rock and Roll Hall Of Fame and the Songwriter's Hall of Fame in 2011.
For more information on Leon Russell, visit leonrussellrecords.com or visit his official Facebook page.