Scoop: Remembering far-reaching rocker Leon Russell

Leon Russell, left, collaborated with Elton John on the album "The Union." (Courtesy photo)

Leon Russell, left, collaborated with Elton John on the album "The Union." (Courtesy photo)

Just days after we lost the great Leonard Cohen, comes the death of another master: Leon Russell.

Famous for his long white hair, hats and gritty voice, Russell, 74, died Sunday at his home in Nashville,according to his Facebook site, which didn’t mention the cause of death. Over the summer, he had a heart attack and bypass surgery.

In career that spanned nearly six decades, Russell (a member of both the Rock and Roll and Songwriters Halls of Fame) worked with performers including Elton John (who tweeted “he was a mentor, inspiration and so kind to me, I loved him”), Willie Nelson, George Harrison and Joe Cocker.

The tune “A Song for You” (a “masterpiece,” said Steve Martin, off Russell’s first solo album in 1970 and written in 10 minutes, according to the New York Times) was recorded dozens of artists including Ray Charles, the Carpenters, Helen Ready, Whitney Houston, Amy Winehouse, and Christina Aguilera.

Born Claude Russell Bridges in April 2, 1942, his work spanned genres, and over the years several artists found chart success by recording his songs, including Cocker (Delta Lady), The Carpenters (Superstar), B.B. King (Hummingbird) and George Benson (This Masquerade).

In the 1960s, as a studio musician in Los Angeles, he was in Phil Spector’s Wall of Sound Orchestra, and he played sessions for Frank Sinatra, Sam Cooke, Aretha Franklin, the Ventures and the Monkees.

He played piano on “Mr. Tambourine Man” by the Byrds, “A Taste of Honey” by Herb Alpert, “Live With Me” by the Rolling Stones and all of the Beach Boys’ early albums, including “Pet Sounds.”

In 1992, he told the Associated Press that 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 married his second wife Janet Lee Constantine in 1983 and had four daughters, Sugaree, Coco, Tina, and Honey and a son, Teddy.

WALL OF EMPATHY

Passersby are invited to participate in “Wall of Empathy” art installations at 16th Street, 24th Street and Montgomery BART stations between 7 and 10 a.m. today to write, read and share thoughts in the wake of Donald Trump’s election. Organizers (using #WallofEmpathy this morning) say they were inspired by artist Matthew Chavez, who created a “therapy wall” that comforted New Yorkers last week.

QUICK TAKES

Premiering Thursday on Logo, “Hungry,” a documentary about three diverse female chefs and restaurant owners in California who have found success the odds in an industry dominated by white men, profiles Sarah Kirnon of Miss Ollie’s in Oakland. … In other restaurant news, these Northern California eateries have made Michelin’s 2017 list of moderately priced “Bib Gourmand” spots: ‘āina, Bravas Bywater, Del Popolo, Lai Hong Lounge, Nopalito, Okane, Shed Café, Tacos Sinaloa, Tsubasa, Two Birds/One Stone and Village Sake.

HAPPY BIRTHDAY

Reality star Chip Gaines is 42. …Actor Josh Duhamel is 44. … Actor Patrick Warburton is 52. .. Pianist Yanni is 62 ….Politician Condoleezza Rice is 62. …Singer Stephen Bishop is 65. … Prince Charles is 68.

Staff, wire reports

A Song For YouLeon RussellMiss Ollie'sSarah KirnonWall of Empathy

If you find our journalism valuable and relevant, please consider joining our Examiner membership program.
Find out more at www.sfexaminer.com/join/

Just Posted

Health care workers in the intensive care unit at Providence Saint John’s Health Center in Santa Monica, with Alejandro Balderas, a 44-year-old patient who later died. Even in California, a state with a coronavirus vaccination rate well above average, the number of people hospitalized with COVID-19 has nearly doubled in the past two weeks, according to a New York Times database. (Isadora Kosofsky/The New York Times)
Why COVID took off in California, again

‘The good news is: The vaccines are working’

Students practice identifying species in the school garden at Verde Elementary in Richmond during summer camp. (Photo courtesy of Verde Elementary)
Reading, writing and bike riding: How schools spent summer helping students recover from pandemic

By Sydney Johnson EdSource Bicycles typically aren’t allowed on the blacktop at… Continue reading

The San Francisco Public Utilities Commission launched a pilot program that offers up to 90 percent discounts on water and sewer bills for eligible customers. (Andri Tambunan/Special to ProPublica)
How does 90% off your water bill sound? Here’s who qualifies

The San Francisco Public Utilities Commission announced this week it is launching… Continue reading

Unscrupulous, boundary-pushing executives seem to be an inescapable part of the most exciting technology. (Timo Lenzen/The New York Times)
Why tech innovation invites a breed of unscrupulous hucksters

By Shira Ovide New York Times I’m angry about startup founders who… Continue reading

Most Read