Monday, November 14, 2016

Leon and Leonard RIP

Two giants of popular music have died over the last week or so - Leon Russell and Leonard Cohen. Both of them had a major impact over several decades, but while Leonard's death has been marked with widespread media coverage, the death of Leon Russell has been little reported by comparison.
Born in Oklahoma, Leon Russell, who was 74 when he died, made a rockabilly record under his real name of Russell Bridges called All Right in 1959 but it went unreleased for decades. An excellent keyboard player, he was a member of LA's renowned Wrecking Crew in the mid 60s, backing the likes of Jan and Dean, Gary Lewis and The Byrds. His first solo release on Dot, Everybody's Talking 'Bout The Young, had a similar sound to that of fellow Crew member P F Sloan who died last year.
He formed a studio group The Asylum Choir and found a new image, with long hair and beard and typically wearing a top hat, when he wrote Delta Lady for Joe Cocker and put together his Mad Dogs and Englishmen tour. He played with Delanie and Bonnie and took part in George Harrison's Concert for Bangla Desh whilst also playing with a wide variety of artists, including The Band, Flying Burrito Brothers, Dave Mason, Bob Dylan and the Rolling Stones. He
set up the Shelter label with Denny Cordell and achieved his greatest success as a solo rock artist in the early seventies with albums such as the three LP Leon Live, Carney, which included the hit single Tight Rope, and Leon Russell and the Shelter People. Afterwards he recorded country music under the name of Hank Wilson and in 1979 had a country music number one hit with Willie Nelson on Heartbreak Hotel. He formed his Paradise record label in 1976 and continued to record intermittently through to 2010 when he worked with Elton John on The Union, which regenerated his career.
Much has been written about Canadian singer songwriter Leonard Cohen, who has died aged 82. In the late sixties, when he decided to put his poems to music, people seemed to be divided into those who loved his gloomy depressing records and those who found them just dull. I was in the latter camp, yet I have to admit that listening to tracks like Suzanne and Bird On The Wire today I find them strangely moving. His later song Hallelujah became one of the most recorded songs of all time.    Here's his obituary in The Guardian.
The Vinyl Word says a fond farewell also to actor Robert Vaughn, who has died aged 82. Notable films included The Magnificent
Seven, The Young Philadephians and The Towering Inferno, but it was as a TV star that he had his greatest success, particularly his role as Napoleon Solo in The Man From UNCLE, which spawned several movies. In later years he appeared in Law and Order and Hustle and even had a stint in Coronation Street.


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