Leon Russell: One True Rock 'n' Roll Badass
Leon Russell is the definition of the term "session man." He's played with Bob Dylan, Elton John, Ray Charles, Rolling Stones, Joe Cocker, The Beach Boys, George Harrison, and more. He's a "musician's musician," admired by the guys you admire, and his solo albums have found him exploring the sounds of country, soul, rock 'n' roll, and jazz. In 2011, he was inducted into the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame, and on Wednesday, October 17, you can watch him live at Talking Stick Resort.
Leon Russell started playing piano at the age of three, and first started playing in nightclubs when he was fourteen years old. He emerged in the 1970s as the "Master of Space and Time," and he would sit behind his piano and sing songs alongside Bob Dylan and Joe Cocker with his long hair, aviator sunglasses, and a top-hat that only he could make cool. Russell still has his trademark long hair, which is now ghost-white, and he still sports those hats. He still looks at his piano keys through a pair of aviator sunglasses. And, most importantly, Leon Russell still plays his ass off on tour.
He has played in a variety of genres, and has released albums which can be considered gospel, blues, country, rock 'n' roll. In 2010, Russell teamed with Elton John for The Union, and Rolling Stone labeled the record the third best album released that year. Elton was the presenter who announced him as an inductee into the 2011 class of the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame, and spoke about his past with Russell. They first met in the 1960's and Elton introduced Russell as one of his heroes, and the applause from the audience echoed that John was far from alone.
His recent setlists have included covers of Chuck Berry, B.B. King, the Beatles, and Son House. Russell has been known to do Stones medleys as well. Most covers he plays in shows are songs he has co-written, or played in concert with the artists himself. With a musical career of over fifty years, however, one can never know what sort of gems an icon like Russell will play live.
Russell's most recognizable song would be "A Song for You," which has been covered by hundreds of artists. He is also responsible for writing Cocker's "Delta Lady," and his own, "Hummingbird." All of these songs have been played at recent shows -- this show is not one to miss.