R.I.P. Leon Russell: 5 Things You Didn't Know

November 14, 2016

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Another rock legend has passed on, making 2016 one of the worst ever for rock and roll. According to a post on his website, Leon Russell died over the weekend at age 74.

Here are a few things you may not have know about this multi-talented white haired musician.

1. When Leon was 17, he was recruited to join Jerry Lee Lewis's touring band. He thought it would be more fun than college, because he would get to travel the country and eat in a lot of different restaurants. 

2. He was a session musician in Los Angeles during the sixties and very much in demand. He played on songs by the Byrds, Bob Dylan, Gary Lewis and the Playboys and more. And that's his piano you hear on "Monster Mash" by Bobby Boris Pickett, and "Strangers in the Night" by Frank Sinatra. 

3. Leon recruited some pretty heavy hitters to appear on his first album--including John Lennon, George Harrison, and Ringo Starr. Oh, and if that weren't enough Bill Wyman, Charlie Watts, Eric Clapton and Steve Winwood were on the album too. 

4. His biggest hit was "Tight Rope," which made it to #11 on the charts in 1972. He had success as a songwriter for others as well. Russell co-wrote the song "Superstar" that was a hit for the Carpenters and  wrote "This Masquerade" that charted for George Benson.  His "A Song For You" has been covered by everyone from Ray Charles to Andy Williams to Whitney Houston and Donna Summer.

 5. When Leon Russell was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 2011, Elton John gave the induction speech. The two made an album together, called The Union, in 2010, which Rolling Stone called one of the best of that year.

Here's a CBS Sunday Morning feature on Leon Russell and Elton John from five years ago.