Goodbye Leon

Goodbye Leon

Last Sunday morning when I was still smarting from the election results with thoughts flashing through my head about things not being able to get any worse, I got jolted back to reality with more sobering news.  When I read in my social media news feed that entertainer Leon Russell had died in his sleep, my heart sank yet further.  As I have stated more than once before, music forms the tapestry that is the backdrop of life.  Among the songs and musical works that form mine, Leon Russell is responsible for a respectable portion of it.

YoungLeonRussell

Claude Russell Bridges was born in Lawton, Oklahoma.  When he was a small child his family moved to Tulsa.  He was attending Will Rogers High School at the time Yours Truly was born in 1959.  Starting his career in the mid-1950s, Russell is credited with being one of the founders of the Tulsa Sound.  Even though his career led him to Los Angeles in 1960 and from there all over the world, Leon Russell never forgot where he was from.  In my own youth Leon was a celebrated local icon, a status that has been reinforced and re-validated over the past week with a huge outpouring of affection for a Tulsa favorite son.  Indeed, a look at Leon’s Old Church Studio at 3rd and Trenton tells the story.

TheOldChurchStudio

ChurchStudioSteps

LeonRussellRoad

Leon passed away at his home near Nashville, Tennessee and there was a memorial service for him there this past Friday.  Sunday afternoon there was a memorial service for him at ORU’s Mabee Center.  Several hundred hometown fans, friends, fellow musicians and business associates turned out to pay their respects to a bonafide superstar of local origin whose body of work spans sixty years and will certainly endure for much longer.

Leon'sMemorial

Yours truly was in attendance for Leon’s memorial along with a few friends to bid farewell to an authentic Tulsa original.  Members of the Leon Russell Band delivered an excellent performance and Leon’s protege John Fullbright gave a wonderful opening performance of A Song For You.  If ever there were lyrics appropriate for an occasion, these nailed it:

I love you in a place where there’s no space or time

I love you for in my life you are a friend of mine

And when my life is over

Remember when we were together

We were alone and I was singing this song for you

Leon'sMemorialMabeeCenter

It is amazing how many lives Leon Russell touched in his 74 years.  His old associate Steve Ripley gave an especially moving eulogy and related this quote from Leon, “If you write a song for one person ten thousand people will relate to it more than if you write a song for ten thousand people.”  I personally deeply appreciate a fact about Leon that came out in the course of all the eulogies, that being he was a closet intellectual.  His genius indeed was apparent.

Old Leon Russell

 Taylor Hanson performed a rendition of what is probably my favorite Leon Russell song, Home Sweet Oklahoma.  All in all it was an impressive expression of affection and fond memory of a not only an entertainment icon but an ordinary Oklahoma boy who was a beloved husband and father and businessman.  When I arrived at the ORU Mabee Center, I saw a two bumper stickers on the back of a car that summed up the day’s sentiment beautifully:

Don’t cry because its over.

Smile because it happened.

and

Goodbye Leon

Goodbye Leon

2016 has been a year of great loss as the grim reaper has held a field day in the ranks of the entertainment elite.  At the same time it has been an uplifting reminder that people like Leon Russell have walked among us.  If we can touch as half as many lives in a positive way as he did then our life will have been well lived.  Thank you Mr. Bridges for all the memories and wonderful sounds.

Goodbye Leon.

LeonRussell

3 Comments

  1. Stan
    Nov 30, 2016

    Great summary of one of the best in music and Lyric. I saw Leon in concert in the early70s. Best of the best. And an humble man. Stan

  2. Smithd622
    Nov 27, 2016

    This actually answered my drawback, thank you! egdgeccaeeeabdkd

  3. Carl Alexander
    Nov 21, 2016

    He was one of the greats… it’s sad to watch them all leave us, one by one & song by song. Wave your peace sign – the end of the Rock Era is passing by…