Russell, a member of the Rock and Roll and Songwriters Halls of Fame, performed and recorded with a wide-ranging roster of performers including Elton John, Willie Nelson and the New Grass Revival.
Claude Russell Bridges was born in Lawton, Okla., on April 2, 1942. He began learning piano at the age of four; by his early teens, he was playing in Tulsa nightclubs. Following his high school graduation, Russell toured with Jerry Lee Lewis for a few months, then moved to Los Angeles and found work as a session musician. As part of the Wrecking Crew, a collective of elite studio musicians, Russell played piano on a number of hit songs.
He was a captivating live performer. In 1971, he wowed crowds at the star-studded Concert for Bangladesh with a scorching medley of Jumpin' Jack Flash and Youngblood.
Russell's A Song for You, which appeared on his eponymous, 1970 debut album, has been recorded by more than three dozen artists (Ray Charles won a Grammy for his version) over the years.
He released his last solo studio album, Life Journey, in 2014.
In July, Russell suffered a heart attack and underwent bypass surgery, but had resumed playing live shows. He was scheduled to perform Tuesday in Pensacola.
Elton John collaborated with Russell on the 2010 album The Union and helped induct him into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 2011.
Elton John paid tribute to Russell on both Twitter and Instagram Sunday.
My darling Leon Russell passed away last night. He was a mentor, inspiration and so kind to me. Thank God we caught up with each other and made "The Union". He got his reputation back and felt fulfilled. I loved him and always will. #LeonRussell #RIP #TheHandsOfAngels
A photo posted by Elton John (@eltonjohn) on
Nov 13, 2016 at 6:57am PST
The Rock and Roll Hall of Fame also posted on Twitter mid-afternoon Sunday.