Leon Russell dead: Rock and roll musician dies aged 74

'His wife said that he passed away in his sleep,' a statement posted on the singer's website reads

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American musician and songwriter Leon Russell has died at the age of 74.

The artist, who is best known for the songs "Shine a Light" and "A Song for You", died in Nashville on Sunday.

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

The artist, who performed his gospel-inflenced southern boogie piano rock, blues, and country music for over five decades, was inducted into both the Rock and Roll Hall Of Fame and the Songwriter's Hall of Fame in 2011.

Russell's colourful career saw him lead 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.  

Born in Tulsa in Oklahoma, Russell embarked on his musical career at the age of just 14 in local nightclubs. By the 1950s he had moved to Los Angeles to become a session musician, playing the piano on the songs of numerous 1960s musicians. Fast forward to 1970 and he had become a solo recording artist but continued to persist with his other numerous musical roles. His hit Shine a Light was featured on the 1972 Rolling Stones' album Exile on Main St.

He then dipped into relative obscurity for a period before coming back with a vengeance after he recorded The Union alongside Sir Elton - who saw Russell as a longtime hero. This collaboration boosted his popularity until his last days, with him going on to release a solo album and tour the world.