Throughout his 60-year career, genre-defying composer Leon Russell made songs that became standards. As a musician, he often lived in the shadows of his success – other artists basking in the spotlight of his original works – but as a songwriter for others, he shone among the stars.
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While Russell wrote innumerable hits, here are 10 songs he wrote for others.
“Blues Power” – Eric Clapton
Appearing on Eric Clapton’s 1970 solo debut and speckling his repertoire ever since, the song, “Blues Power,” was written by both the guitar legend and Russell.
While it is unknown precisely how the co-write came to be, the two ran in similar circles and they were both part of a circle of musical friends known as Delaney & Bonnie and Friends. Clapton even made an appearance on Russell’s solo debut and contributes to a jam on the album, called “Jammin’ With Eric.”
“Boogie Man,” “Living on the Highway,” and “I’d Rather Be Blind” – Freddie King
Blues legend Freddie King saw a career revival in the 1970s with help of Russell. They collaborated together on three of King’s albums for Shelter Records, a label started by Russell. That trio of albums saw several of Russell’s songs recorded and released to great acclaim.
Songs like “I’d Rather Be Blind,” “Boogie Man,” “Help Me Through the Day,” and “Living on the Highway,” would become essentials thanks to a marriage of King’s style and Russell’s skill.
“Delta Lady” – Joe Cocker
First recorded by Joe Cocker, the tune, “Delta Lady,” marked Russell’s first commercial songwriting success. The song, accompanied by another Russell-penned tune, “Hello, Little Friend,” appeared on Cocker’s eponymous 1969 album.
After the album’s release, Russell went on tour with Cocker, playing in his Mad Dogs & Englishmen tour in 1970.
“Everybody Loves a Clown,” “She’s Just My Style,” and “I Gotta Find Cupid” – Gary Lewis and the Playboys
During the 1960s, the boy-next-door pop-rockers Gary Lewis and the Playboys made popular many a Russell tune. These early songs like “Everybody Loves a Clown,” “She’s Just My Style,” and “I Gotta Find Cupid” may have been a distinct sidestep from Russell’s bluesy trademark, but they show his growth and versatility.
“I Don’t Remember My Childhood” – Helen Reddy
A big fan of the artist, Helen Reddy covered a number of Russell’s songs, but she was the first to record his “I Don’t Remember My Childhood” for her eponymous album in 1971.
“Lost Inside of You” – Barbra Streisand and Kris Kristofferson
Written by Russell and Barbra Streisand for the A Star Is Born movie soundtrack, “Lost Inside of You” was performed by Streisand alongside Kris Kristofferson, who played the leading roles in the 1976 film.
Russell and Streisand’s work together helped earn the soundtrack a Grammy nomination for Best Original Score written for a Motion Picture or Television Special.
Photo by Robert Knight Archive/Redferns