BY MELISSA RUGGIERI/AJC Music Scene
Only a few days after bidding farewell to musical poet Leonard Cohen, we say goodbye to another beloved songwriter – Leon Russell.
The snowy-maned singer with the distinctively nasal voice frequently played Atlanta in recent years: His last performances came this summer at City Winery and prior to those shows, he played at the 120 Tavern & Music Hall in Marietta in November 2015 and at Terminal West for a pair of dates in January 2015.
I knew when I attended the first Terminal West gig that I was witnessing one of those concerts that will stay tucked in the “I was fortunate enough to see…” memory bank.
Of course everyone knows Russell from his poignant, gorgeous valentine, “A Song for You,” a ballad, which, like Leonard Cohen’s “Hallelujah,” has been covered too many times to track. Cohen had Jeff Buckley as the definitive cover artist of his best-known song and Russell had his Buckley in the form of the inimitable Karen Carpenter, whose version of “A Song for You” with brother Richard is, simply, unforgettable.
As news of Russell’s death spread Sunday after his wife confirmed that the singer passed away in his sleep at his home in Nashville at the age of 74, the music community was quick to mourn the passing of a man who could tackle songs from Ivory Joe to B.B. King to Andrae Crouch in concert and whose own canon – “Tight Rope,” “Delta Lady,” “This Masquerade” and “Superstar” (the latter two also recorded by The Carpenters) and about 400 more – remain musical treasures.
Though he was recovering from heart surgery this summer, Russell, ever the troubadour, had a slew of live dates planned through early 2017.
Here is what some of his peers had to say about his passing.