Wednesday, December 15, 2010

2011 Rock & Roll Hall Of Fame: Leon Russell

The Rock & Roll Hall Of Fame Class of 2011 was officially announced today, so thought I’d share the official HOF bios of each of the inductees.

Leon Russell
Musical Excellence Award Recipient

Leon Russell has been called a rock and roll Renaissance man, and indeed there is little that this piano-playing legend from Oklahoma hasn’t done.

He was a busy session musician in Los Angeles in the 1960s, playing on countless records, including many of Phil Spector’s greatest productions and hits by the Byrds, Paul Revere and the Raiders and Gary Lewis and the Playboys, as well as George Harrison’s Concert for Bangladesh benefit in 1971.

His churchy, rolling piano figures and sly, drawling vocals pegged him as a unique stylist, and his evangelical outpouring of energy from the stage turned his concerts into, as Russell himself put it, “an artificially induced religious experience.”

Russell exploded into public view in 1970, with the release of Joe Cocker’s live double-album "Mad Dogs and Englishmen" (for which Russell served as ringmaster) and his own self-titled debut album. "Leon Russell and the Shelter People" appeared a year later and became his first gold album. "Carney," released in 1972, held the Number Two position on Billboard’s album chart for a month and yielded his highest-charting single, “Tight Rope” (Number 11). The sprawling, three-disc Leon Live documented the full Leon Russell concert experience at its chaotic, charismatic peak in 1973.

Russell explored his roots in country, recording a set of covers by Hank Williams and others (for which he used the pseudonym Hank Wilson) in 1976 and a well-received collaboration with Willie Nelson, the double-album "One for the Road," in 1979.

Russell’s career got its latest, greatest push when Elton John – who’s often cited Russell as an early idol - approached him about a collaboration. The resulting album, "The Union" (2010), entered the Billboard chart at Number Three – Russell’s highest showing since 1972’s "Carney." Moreover, the single “If It Wasn’t for Bad,” written by Russell, has earned a Grammy nomination for Best Pop Collaboration With Vocals.

Leon Russell – Tight Rope