I got curious about Leon Russell’s appearance with Elton John on the 4/2/11 episode of Saturday Night Live. Something seemed wrong. You could barely hear Leon, and it didn’t look like he was fully there. And why was he on SNL with Elton in the first place?
It turns out that there is a reason for both his appearance and his appearance. Leon has been sick, and Elton had earlier decided to bring him back from his recent obscurity by doing a joint album and tour. Well, sick is a bit of an understatement: he had brain surgery last year.
LA Times article about the album/tour
Russell Back to Work Just Days After Brain Surgery
For a refresher, I decided to look back at some of Leon’s history. I knew he did a lot of session work, but no idea how much. There’s more than enough to inspire awe on the Wikipedia article about him. There is also this info from AllMusic.com for a little of the variety of what he did:
As a member of Spector’s renowned studio group, Russell played on many of the finest pop singles of the 1960s, also arranging classics like Ike & Tina Turner‘s monumental “River Deep, Mountain High”; other hits bearing his input include the Byrds’ “Mr. Tambourine Man,” Gary Lewis & the Playboys’ “This Diamond Ring,” and Herb Alpert’s “A Taste of Honey.”
And finally, don’t forget about Russell’s “This Masquerade”, which earned a Grammy Award for singer George Benson.