New York City
When Leon Russell wrote “A Song For You,” he says he was trying to write a song that both Ray Charles and Frank Sinatra could sing, a song that would reach out and touch the audience. His mission accomplished some 30 years ago, the melody lingers on.
Known originally as a session musician, Leon Russell played with artists as varied as Jerry Lee Lewis, Phil Spector and The Rolling Stones. With a solo career spanning the genres of rock, blues and gospel, he began his career at 14, lying about his age to land a gig playing backup at a Tulsa nightclub to play with Ronnie Hawkins behind Jerry Lee Lewis.
Joe Cocker sang “Delta Lady,” Mr. Russell’s first songwriting hit; in the late 70s, he penned “This Masquerade,” which won a Grammy Award and “Record of the Year” for George Benson. In the early 70s, Leon Russell appeared at George Harrison’s “Concert for Bangladesh” (both the film and the album went platinum), after recording sessions with B.B. King, Eric Clapton and Bob Dylan, and went on to tour with the Rolling Stones. At the same time, his solo career was taking off-his album “Carney” reached number two on the charts.
“One For The Road,” featuring Leon Russell and Willie Nelson, was honored by the Country Music Association as “Best Album of the Year” in 2001. The dynamic duo then recorded “Heartbreak Hotel, which topped the charts.