Leon Russell was born Claude Russell Bridges in Lawton, Oklahoma in April 1942. He studied classical piano from an early age and moved to Los Angeles in 1958.
He began his career as a session musician and songwriter in California in the 1960s, playing the piano for The Beach Boys, The Byrds, Badfinger and Phil Spector (he played on Be My Baby and Da Doo Ron Ron) among many others.
In the late 60s, he became friendly with blue-eyed soul duo Delaney & Bonnie and in 1969 joined Delaney & Bonnie’s Friends for touring and recording.
Most of Friends became part of Joe Cocker‘s touring band, Mad Dogs and Englishmen, which Russell led. He later carved out a dual career as a solo artist and sideman/arranger for artists like Cocker and Eric Clapton.
Russell died on 13 November 2016. He was 74.