Leon Russell

The recording of "National Ransom" in 2010 was one of the occasions when my young American sons were keeping me company at work. 

On the afternoon of the visit, one four-year old decided that it was better not to enter a low-lit, room filled with strange looking fiddles, drums and all manner of stringed things. 

His brother was more curious. 

I bore him up in my arms for a better look. He was immediately at ease with the familiar faces of Pete Thomas and the towering presence of T Bone Burnett, so I introduced him to the rest of the room...

"This is Dennis and this is Marc"...

When we got to the piano booth, a man with small dark glasses, long white hair, a full beard to match emerged from the shadows. 

A look of startled amazement and puzzlement came over my boy's face. I swear his expression read as, "Okay, Dad has Father Christmas on piano"...

Leon Russell had always looked and for that matter played like a legendary being. 

The song we were cutting that day was but a triflle; a couple of groovy changes that Leon had proposed and a blue rocking rhyme that T Bone and I shot back and forth in a few minutes as pretext for watching his hands fly over the keys 

If nothing else, "My Lovely Jezebel" provided a break in the dam of dark ballads that we had piled up.

I had visited Village Recorders when Leon and Elton John were recording "The Union" and reminded him that we had met on one previous occasion, at a televised salute to Willie Nelson on which he had joined Willie and Ray Charles for a supernatural performance of Leon's great "Song For You", which Aretha Franklin or Donnie Hathaway had possessed until that evening.

Many of the greatest records on which Leon Russell played were 45s that didn't carry instrumental credits but it is now well-documented that he was at the piano for many of the Spector and Wrecking Crew sides cut in Los Angeles in the 1960s. 

If you want to see and hear him in his pomp, check out "The Letter" from "Mad Dogs And Englishmen" or listen to his beautiful and strange album, "Carney". 

His "Mad Dogs" legend was "Master of Space and Time", you'll hear why in all his recordings. 

Leon's rendition of George Harrison's "Beware Of Darkness" is a song we all need right now but this performance is the most beautiful that I could recommend.