Leon Russell reflects on his career, plans to have a castle and ride into space
Lawton native Leon Russell isn’t bitter about the years he made music in relative obscurity before making the 2010 album “The Union” with Elton John revived his career.
“I didn’t start out to become famous, so when it disappeared I thought, well, that happens sometimes,” Russell told Reuters in an interview in New York where he was inducted last week into the Songwriters Hall of Fame. “It does happen.”
The Tulsa Sound pioneer admitted his avoidance of the media didn’t help him stay in the musical forefront.
“I was avoiding the press, I really didn’t like doing (interviews), so that more than anything is what it was,” he said. “I didn’t like to talk to people who didn’t really know me and didn’t care about me.”
The Rock and Roll Hall of Famer, 69, grew up in Tulsa, beginning his musical career at age 14 and graduating from Tulsa’s Will Rogers High School. In the 1960s, he was an in-demand session musician. In the ’70s, he led Joe Cocker’s legendary “Mad Dogs & Englishmen” tour, performed with George Harrison and Friends at the Concert for Bangladesh and released a series of successful albums.
Among others, he contributed to the records of Cocker, Sam Cooke, Jerry Lee Lewis, George Harrison, Doris Day, Tina Turner, Aretha Franklin, Johnny Mathis, Eric Clapton, The Byrds, The Beach Boys, Herb Alpert, Sinatra, Dylan, The Rolling Stones and was also in Phil Spector’s studio group.
“I have never been off stage for the past 50 years,” said Russell, whose songwriting credits include “A Song For You,” “This Masquerade,” “ Delta Lady,” “Tight Rope,” “Bluebird” and “Hummingbird.”
At the height of his fame in the ’70s, Russell played huge arenas. As his fame slipped away, he played small nightclubs.
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