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Posts Tagged ‘Elton John’

RIP, Leon Russell (November 13, 2016) Legendary Musician, Songwriter & Producer

Posted by themusicsover on November 13, 2016

Leon Russell (Born Claude Russell Bridges)
April 2, 1942 – November 13, 2016

Photo by Carl Lender

Photo by Carl Lender

Leon Russell was a celebrated musician, singer, songwriter and producer whose early work as a session player alone was enough to rightfully find him a home in the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame. Add to that his credits as a songwriter, and you have one of the most respected artists we have ever known.  Born in Oklahoma, Russell began playing the piano at just four years old.  By high school, he and schoolmate David Gates, of future Bread fame, had a band together. Over the next couple of years Russell needed a fake ID to play the clubs of Tulsa. And then, at just 16 years old, he headed to Los Angeles to take a crack at becoming a session musician. Russell quickly built a solid reputation and became one of the first people called into the studio or on stage to lend his talents.  The list of artists or their producers that mad that call is staggering – it includes the Byrds, Frank Sinatra, Bob Dylan, B.B. King, the Rolling Stones, Barbra Streisand, and the Beach Boys.  And as part of the famed Wrecking Crew of L.A. studio musicians, the list goes on. Russel’s first hit as a songwriter came by way of Joe Cocker‘s 1969 recording of his “Delta Lady.”  As the ’70s dawned, Russell began making his own albums while producing others.  And thanks in part to the success of “Delta Lady,” he became a go-to songwriter for hopeful pop and rock stars.  In 1970, he released his self-titled debut. The album spawned one of his most famous songs, “A Song For You” which has been covered by a diverse list of artists that includes Ray Charles, Zakk Wylde, Andy Williams, Herbie Hancock with Christina Aguilera, Whitney Houston, Willie Nelson, and Amy Winehouse. Russell spent the rest of the ’70s on a seemingly endless recording and touring cycle. He eventually slowed down, but became no less productive and influential.  The next three decades found him working with the likes of New Grass Revival and Bruce Hornsby while releasing several more of his own albums which leaned more bluegrass and country than much of his ’70s output. In 2010, Elton John (who called Russell his biggest influence as a pianist, singer and songwriter) and Bernie Taupin partnered with Russell on The Union, which resulted in a return-to-the-charts for both. The outstanding album, produced by T-Bone Burnett, and credited equally to both John and Taupin, entered the Billboard charts at No. 3, Russell’s highest charting album since 1972 and John’s highest since 1976.  Rolling Stone called it one of the best 30 albums of 2010.  The new-found exposure for Russell found him touring heavily up through the first half of 2016 when a heart attack sidelined him. Not discouraged, plans were being made to hit the road again in 2017.  Unfortunately, while still recovering from the heart attack, Leon Russell died quietly in his sleep on November 14, 2016.  He was 74.

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Died On This Date (March 8, 2016) George Martin / Legendary Beatles Producer

Posted by themusicsover on March 8, 2016

George Martin
January 3, 1926 – March 8, 2016

george-martinGeorge Martin was a classically trained musician, record producer, and talent scout who most famously took a chance on the Beatles after they had been turned down by most other British record labels at the time.  What followed was a collaboration that changed not only the musical landscape of the era, but also what would become popular music and pop culture for decades to come.  With Martin as producer (and so much more) on the Beatles’ original albums, they scored 30 #1 singles in the UK and 23 in the US – and millions in sales, of course. Of the list of Beatles collaborators who were referred to as “the Fifth Beatle,” it was Martin who actually deserved the title.  That alone on a person’s resume is enough to cruise through the rest of his or her life, but not Martin.  Over the next six decades, he had a big hand in the success of the likes of Elton John, Dire Straits, Cheap Trick, ELO, and Celine Dion, to name a few.  Martin also worked extensively in film, either arranging, scoring or producing. Two of the most famous songs he produced for films were Shirley Bassey‘s “Goldfinger” for Paul McCartney‘s “Live and Let Die” from the James Bond movies of the same name.  He’s been recognized with six Grammys, an Academy Award, and countless other accolades.  George Martin was 90 when he died in his sleep on March 8, 2016.

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Died On This Date (January 8, 2015) Andrae Crouch / The Father of Modern Gospel Music

Posted by themusicsover on January 8, 2015

Andrae Crouch
July 1, 1942 – January 8, 2015

andrae-crouchAndrae Crouch was a Gospel music pioneer in that he almost single-handedly crossed it over to the mainstream over the course of his career.  Crouch took to music at an early age, and had already written his first Gospel song by the time he was 14.  In 1960, he formed his first group, the Church of God in Christ Singers, that also counted Billy Preston as a member.  That lead to the Disciples which lasted until 1979, when Crouch went on to his successful solo career.  His best known songs are “My Tribute (To God Be the Glory),” “Soon and Very Soon,” and “The Blood Will Never Lose Its Power.”  Over the years, Crouch collaborated with the likes of Elton John, Michael Jackson, Stevie Wonder and Madonna (to name just a few).   He also contributed original music to several films and television shows, most notably,  The Lion King and The Color Purple,  for which he earned an Academy Award nomination.  Throughout a career that spanned nearly 50 years, he won seven Grammys, four Dove Awards, and numerous other accolades.  Andrae Crouch was 72 when he died on January 8, 2015 while in the hospital after suffering a heart attack five days earlier.

Thanks to Harold Lepidus at Bob Dylan Examiner for the tip.

What You Should Own

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Click to find at amazon.com


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Died on This Date (October 14, 2012) B.B. Cunningham / Gave Us “Let It All Hang Out,” Played With Jerry Lee Lewis

Posted by themusicsover on October 14, 2012

Blake Baker Cunningham, Jr.
DOB Unknown – October 14, 2012

B.B. Cunningham was a legendary Memphis musician who, over a career that spanned some 50 years, played in Jerry Lee Lewis‘ band, played in a high school group that included pre-Booker T & The MG’s Steve Cropper and Donald “Duck” Dunn, scored a Top 20 hit as leader of the ’60s garage band, the Hombres, and engineered records by the likes of Elton John.  Born into a musical family that included his father who, performing under the name Buddy Blake, recorded for Sam Phillips‘ Sun Records during the ’50s.  B.B.’s brother, Bill Cunningham, was a founding member of Alex Chilton’s legendary band, the Box Tops.  While in high school, Cunningham played alongside Cropper and Dunn in a band called the Six O’Clock Boys who had a regional hit with “Ivory Marbles.”  Meanwhile, Cunningham’s father was working at Sun Studios which lead to a night in 1954 when Phillips invited B.B. to play percussion on Elvis Presley’s earliest Sun sessions.  The Six O’Clock Boys soon became the Mar-Keys who had another moderate hit with “Last Night.”  The other members of the Mar-Keys eventually evolved into Booker T & the MG’s while Cunningham dabbled in production and session work.  In 1963, he joined Jerry Lee Lewis’ band on bass and keyboards. He played with the Killer on-and-off for decades.  In 1965, he co-founded the Hombres who had a Top 15 hit with “Let It All Hang Out,” a garage rock staple.  During the early ’70s, Cunningham moved to Los Angeles where engineered recordings by the likes of Elton John, Lou Rawls, and Billy Joel.  He eventually settled back in Memphis where he opened his own recording studio.  In recent years, Cunningham was working as a security guard.  In the early morning hours of October 14, 2012, Cunningham, who was working security at an Southeast Memphis apartment complex, reportedly heard a gunshot from a neighboring complex.  Initial reports were sparse, but indicate that when police arrived on scene, they found both Cunningham and a 16-year-old boy dead from gunshot wounds.  B.B. Cunningham Jr. was 70 when he passed away.

Thanks to Craig Rosen at Number 1 Albums for the assist.

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Died On This Date (August 15, 2012) Bob Birch / Journeyman Bassist; Played With Elton John, Billy Joel, Cher

Posted by themusicsover on August 15, 2012

Bob Birch
July 14, 1956 – August 15, 2012

Photo by Alexander Klink

Bob Birch was a respected bassist who worked both in the studio and on the road with some of pop music’s biggest stars.  Born and raised in Detroit, Michigan, Birch was exposed to the greats at Motown at an early age.  Fist playing the saxophone, Birch won several awards while in school.  He eventually took up the bass and earned a scholarship to Wayne State from which he graduated with a degree in music.  During the early ’80s, he moved to Los Angeles to pursue a career in music.  During his early days in L.A., Birch played on a multi-platinum Jazzercise album.  One of Birch’s first gigs as a touring bassist was for Jose Feliciano.  In 1992, Birch was hired by Elton John and went on to be his primary touring and studio bassist.  The list of artists Birch also performed live or recorded numbers in the dozens if not hundreds.  It includes Billy Joel, Cher, George Michael, Stevie Wonder, Sting, Gregg Allman, Brian Wilson, and Bruce Hornsby.   He also played on such soundtracks as The Scorpion King and The Replacements.  Bob Birch died of an apparent self-inflicted gunshot wound on August 15, 2012.  He was 56.



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