RSU Radio Remembers Leon Russell

The past 12 months have been tough for music fans, losing the likes of David Bowie, Prince, Leonard Cohen, and now Leon Russell. The latter may have a bigger impact on Tulsans than any other icon lost this year. Leon was Tulsa music. Leon is Tulsa music. His legacy lives on, not only in the sound of Oklahoma musicians, but with artists from all over the world.

Russell died at the age of 74 at his home in Nashville. His wife released the following statement:

“We thank everyone for their thoughts and prayers during this very, very difficult time. My husband passed in his sleep in our Nashville home. He was recovering from heart surgery in July and looked forward to getting back on the road in January. We appreciate everyone’s love and support.”

Russell got his start in the Tulsa music scene, playing in a band called The Starlighters alongside JJ Cale. He played as a studio musician and as a member of the backing band when touring artists would come to town. From there he went on to work with the likes of Eric Clapton, Joe Cocker, George Harrison, Ringo Starr, Elton John, and Gary Lewis and the Playboys. He ran the now legendary Church Recording Studio in the 60s and 70s. From his early work as a songwriter, arranger, producer, and background player, Russell learned the industry from all angles.

Leon left a great impact on many musicians who he played with. The Church Studio is said to have been a where musicians had legendary jam sessions, and developed some of their signature songs. His legacy lives on in the Tulsa area, with the New Tulsa Sound following closely in his footsteps. Artists from Hanson to Paul Benjamin have acknowledged his influence on their songwriting.

The reactions are already rolling in from some of the musicians touched by Russell’s sound and singing style. You can see some of them below.

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