Leon Russell Dead at 74

Music

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Rock legend Leon Russell has died at age 74.

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The singer/songwriter passed away in his sleep in Nashville, Tennessee in the early hours of Sunday, four months after suffering a heart attack in July. The health issue prompted Russell to postpone a string of shows as he underwent heart bypass surgery.

His widow, Jan Bridges, has issued a statement, which reads: “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.”

Born Claude Russell Bridges, he began his career as a studio pianist in the 1960s, recording sessions with Bob Dylan, the Rolling Stones, Ringo Starr, Barbra Streisand, and the Beach Boys, before becoming a member of Delaney & Bonnie & Friends.

He later embarked on a solo career, and released more than 30 studio albums over the years, including collaborative records with New Grass Revival and the Nashville Symphony. His One for the Road album with Willie Nelson became a hit in 1979, and he enjoyed a career resurgence in 2010 after joining forces with close friend Elton John for The Union.

Russell’s last studio project, Life Journey, was released in 2014.

His music spanned country, gospel, blues and rock, allowing him to also enjoy collaborations with George Harrison, B.B. King and Joe Cocker, among others.

The Oklahoma native’s catalog of hits includes “This Masquerade,” “Superstar,” “Delta Lady,” “Tight Rope,” and “A Song For You.”

In 2011, he was inducted into both the Songwriter’s Hall of Fame and the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, where John was on hand to celebrate his friend’s career.

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