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R.I.P. Songwriter and Rock ‘n’ Roll Legend Leon Russell, Dead at Age 74

Leon Russell performing at the 2011 Stagecoach Festival (photo: Frazer Harrison / Getty Images).

Musician and songwriter Leon Russell died in his sleep early Sunday in Nashville, according to a statement on his website. He was 74. No cause was specified, but Rolling Stone reports that Russell had suffered serious health problems, including a heart attack in July.

Russell is best known for his gospel-inflected brand of Southern rock, and also recorded country music under the name Hank Wilson. His 1970 song “A Song for You” has been widely covered by artists including Donny Hathaway, the Carpenters, and Ray Charles. Russell was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 2011.

Born Claude Russell Bridges in Oklahoma in 1942, Russell was drawn to music early and began performing as a teenager. As a young man, he became a member of the legendary session musicians’ group the Wrecking Crew and played with scores of artists including Bob Dylan, the Rolling Stones, and the Beach Boys.

By the time Russell began making records under his own name in the 1970s, he was already highly regarded as a performer, arranger, and songwriter. He scored solo hits with “Tight Rope” in 1972 and “Lady Blue” in 1975, released through his own Shelter Records label. He went on to collaborate with artists including Willie Nelson and Bruce Hornsby. Russell’s 2010 album with Elton John, The Union, was a commercial success that brought renewed attention late in his career. His final album was 2014’s Life Journey.

Some of Russell’s many collaborators and admirers shared remembrances of the man known as “the Master of Space and Time”: