Leon Russell dead: 5 songs you may not know he wrote

The legendary musician passed away in his sleep in Nashville on Sunday, according to a statement on his website

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The Independent Culture

Leon Russell's passing has brought great sadness to the American music community, thanks to his famed contributions 'Shine a Light' and 'A Song For You'.

Russell's colourful career saw him lead the famous Joe Cocker's ‘Mad Dogs & Englishmen’ tour, perform with George Harrison and Friends and tour with everyone from Sir Elton John to Willie Nelson, Delaney & Bonnie and Friends, Edgar Winter and The New Grass Revival. He was a longtime hero of Sir Elton and collaborated with him on a number of occasions. 

Though inducted both into the Rock and Roll Hall Of Fame and the Songwriter's Hall of Fame in 2011, much of the musician's legacy has been felt not by his original recordings, but by the many covers and versions of his work recorded both by collaborators and admirers. Here are just a few. 

'Delta Lady', as performed by Joe Cocker


'Delta Lady' marked Russell's first success as a commercial songwriter, which was performed by Joe Cocker and included in his self-titled 1969 album, alongside numerous covers of tracks by the likes of The Beatles, Leonard Cohen, and Bob Dylan. Russell also co-produced and arranged the album, preceding him organizing the 'Mad Dogs & Englishmen' tour. 

'Superstar', as performed by The Carpenters


This 1969 track was written by both Russell and Bonnie Bramlett, with a songwriting credit also given to Delaney Bramlett; created at the time Russell played as part of Delaney & Bonnie and Friends. However, the song's gained its popularity through a whole host of covers: including Rita Coolidge, Bette Midler, Cher, Peggy Lee, and Sonic Youth. 

The most famous, however, is The Carpenters' version released in 1971. 

'A Song For You', as performed by Amy Winehouse


Perhaps Russell's most well-known contribution, 'A Song For You' was called an American classic by Elton John, and has seen many different versions throughout the years; the track more recently featured on Lioness: Hidden Treasures, a posthumous compilation album of Amy Winehouse's unreleased work. 

Winehouse's version specifically covered the Donny Hathaway version from 1971, with further covers having been produced by the likes of Ray Charles, Willie Nelson, Donna Summer, and Christina Aguilera. 

'Shine a Light', as performed by The Rolling Stones


Though the track which features on the 1972 album Exile on Main St. was largely written by Mick Jagger, as an ode to former Rolling Stones guitarist Brian Jones during the period in which his drug habit began to worsen, an early version was recorded by Leon Russell under the name '(Can't Seem to) Get a Line on You' in 1969.

'This Masquerade', as performed by George Benson 


Russell originally penned the song as a B-side to his 1972 hit 'Tight Rope', but it found later fame in covers by George Benson and The Carpenters; as well as appearing in William Friedkin's 2006 horror Bug

Russell died in Nashville on Sunday; “His wife said that he passed away in his sleep,” a statement posted on Russell’s website read.

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