Leon Russell dies aged 74

Leon Russell
Leon Russell (Image credit: Getty)

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.

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.”

Leon Russell's Amazing Journey

Former TeamRock news desk member Christina joined our team in late 2015, and although her time working on online rock news was fairly brief, she made a huge impact by contributing close to 1500 stories. Christina also interviewed artists including Deftones frontman Chino Moreno and worked at the Download festival. In late 2016, Christina left rock journalism to pursue a career in current affairs. In 2021, she was named Local Weekly Feature Writer of the Year at the Scottish Press Awards.