Elton John and Leon Russell recently released a collaborative album, The Union, which has just been named one of the best this year by Rolling Stone Magazine. The album has also been nominated for a Grammy award.
These two almost seem like the odd couple and it is surprising to see such different artists come together. But, Elton has always been fascinated by the likes of Russell.
“I’ve always called him the master,” said Sir Elton. “When anyone says, ‘Who’s your favorite piano player?’ I always said, ‘Well, the master is Leon Russell.’”
Which made it especially nerve-racking when Elton looked out in the audience at a Los Angeles club, as he made his U.S. debut in 1970:
“I’m in the middle of ‘Burn Down the Mission,’” he recalled, “and I look to my right, and there’s only 250 people in the Troubadour, and in the second row, I see this long mane of silver hair, and these glasses, and you know, Leon was a pretty handsome guy!”
And in time, Elton rose with his superstardom and Russell…fell off the map.
Year later, Elton went off to Africa and filled his iPod with Russell tracks.
“I rang him up,” Elton said, “and said, ‘It’s me, 39 years later. Would you like to do a record?’ And he said, ‘Do you think I can?’ I went, ‘What do you mean, you think you can? Of course, you can.’”
And the rest is history. Have you listened to the new Elton John/Leon Russell album? What do you think?