Leon Russell has died aged 74.
Born Claude Russell Bridges outside Tulsa, Oklahoma in 1942, the multi-instrumentalist and songwriter played the city’s nightclubs as a teenager. He often used a fake ID his friend gave him bearing the name ‘Leon’ – which he eventually adopted as his stage name.
He rose to prominence in the early 70s, penning hits such as A Song For You, Carpenters’ song Superstar, 1972’s Tight Rope and This Masquerade and collaborating with big acts including Bob Dylan, George Harrison and the Rolling Stones throughout his 50-year career. In 2011, Russell was enshrined both the Rock And Roll Hall Of Fame and the Songwriters Hall Of Fame.
Russell struggled with a number of health problems in recent years, having underwent an operation to stop leaking brain fluid in 2010. He also required surgery after he had a heart attack in the summer.
His wife reports that he passed away in his sleep.
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Elton John, who worked with Russell on 2010 album The Union, led tributes to the late performer. He says: “My darling Leon Russell passed away last night. He was a mentor, inspiration and so kind to me. Thank God we caught up with each other and made The Union.
“He got his reputation back and felt fulfilled. I loved him and always will.”
Eric Clapton has also paid tribute, saying: “I had the honour of playing on stage with Leon when I was in Delaney and Bonnie and Friends, we played the Ghetto with him on Hammond organ. He was unbelievable, he was a great inspiration. It’s a tremendous loss to music.”