"Are we really happy here, in this lonely game we play?"
Russell Bridges was born in Lawton, OK, on April 2, 1941. He began his career by playing with Phil Spector groups such as the Crystals. He played on Herb Albert's "Taste of Honey" (tasting more sweeeter than wine, you know). He played on the Byrds massacre of Mr. Tambourine Man by Bob Dylan. To add insult to injury, he arranged stuff for Gary Lewis (the son of the French film star) and the Playboys. When you hear, "This Diamond Ring" on the oldies station, think of Russell.
He also toured with Delaney and Bonnie and Paul Revere and the Raiders, but it was when he hooked up with Joe Cocker and the Mad Dogs and Englishmen tour that things began to click. He wound up doing tours with Bob Dylan, Eric Clapton, and even the Stones after this went solid platinum.
He formed Shelter Records in 1970. Some good work came out of that effort. Phoebe Snow. Ever heard her sing Poetry Man, before she starting selling her voice to the highest commercial bidder? Willis Alan Ramsey. Ever heard Muskrat Love? He wrote that.
However, Russell/Leon was in his prime when he wrote songs such as "This Masquerade," "Lady Blue," "Tightrope," and "Superstar." The first was done best by him, but is most well-known by George Benson. It is quite a musical tour-de-force, if you’re into chord structures of pop songs. The second and third are also done best by him. The fourth was done best by the Carpenters.
He's tried various tricks of the trade to get famous again (including a Hank Williams tribute debacle), but he's probably sitting in an arm chair, fiddling with his overgrown greying beard right now, thinking,
"It was a pretty good run."
Editors Note: Leon Russell died in his sleep at his suburban Nashville home in Mt. Juliet, Tennessee, on November 13, 2016, at the age of 74 while recovering from heart surgery.