Leon Russell, rock and roll legend died today in his sleep, his wife said in a statement posted on his website. Honey Bridges, his daughter, told CNN he was recovering from a quadruple bypass when his health took a turn for the worse.
Russell was inducted into the Rock ‘n’ Roll Hall of Fame in 2011 because of his decades of work as a pianist, guitarist and songwriter.
Russell captured the public’s attention as the top hat-wearing pianist and bandleader on Joe Cocker‘s Mad Dogs and Englishmen tour in 1970. He went on to become a headliner throughout the 1970s, captivating audiences with his sweaty, gospel-inflected performances. Russell also collaborated with a who’s who of famous musicians.
He wrote and performed hits like Tightrope, Delta Lady and Song for You, which was covered by Ray Charles and was a hit for him. Along with George Harrison and Bob Dylan, he was a big player in the 1971 Concert for Bangladesh at Madison Square Garden, one of the first big charity concerts. The resulting recording won a Grammy for album of the year.
Elton John praised Russell on Instagram,
“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.“
Claude Russell Bridges was born on April 2, 1942. He lived to 74.