Leon Russell, the musician affectionately known as the “Master of Space and Time” by those close to him, passed away Sunday at 74.
Friends, family and colleagues gathered Friday afternoon at Victory Baptist Church in Mt. Juliet to celebrate Russell’s life, and mourn his death.
Russell, who was born Claude Russell Bridges on April 2, 1942, was a 2010 Rock n’ Roll Hall of Fame inductee. Russell penned dozens of hit songs, some he performed and others written for various other musicians.
Several people who were not able to make it to Mt. Juliet on Friday sent along messages that were read aloud.
Friends shared memories and words of advice from Russell. Musicians he played with years ago – or in some cases, just weeks ago – recounted the first time they heard Russell perform.
“I can’t imagine a world without Leon’s music,” Sir Elton John said in a written message to Russell’s family and friends. “He was everything I wanted to be as a pianist, vocalist and writer. His music has helped me and millions of others in the best and worst of times. He was a unique man, a God-given talent, and he didn’t waste it. He took it and flew. He became the master of space and time.”
A statement was read from Bruce Hornsby, who said Russell was one of the biggest influences for Hornsby in playing piano and writing music.
“He was completely unique, a deep, soulful presence who had a groove and feel on the piano that was unmatched,” Hornsby said.
A statement was also read from entertainer Whoopi Goldberg.
“When I finally met Leon, all I could say was ‘hey Leon Russell,’ and he said, ‘hey Whoopi,’ and what can I tell you? In that short exchange, I knew he was family and how lucky I was to meet and get to spend time with he and Jan,” she said.
“His picture sits on my piano with the rest of the family.”
Following a public service and private visitation Friday afternoon, Russell’s body was taken to Tulsa, Okla., where another public service will be held Sunday afternoon.
Russell is survived by his wife of 38 years, Jan Bridges; daughters, Tina Rose Bridges and her fiancé, Rod Schindler, Sugaree Taloa Noel Bridges and her fiancé, Gianny Muller, Honey Bridges and Coco Bridges; son, Teddy Jack Bridges; and grandchildren Payton Goodner, China Rose Goodner and Tiger Lily Schindler.
By Jake Old