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Music legend and Tulsa Sound pioneer Leon Russell dies at 74

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Legendary Oklahoma-born musician and songwriter Leon Russell has died at age 74, his wife confirms.

Russell was born in Lawton and made his early career in Tulsa, where he helped carve the style of rockabilly and country music known as the Tulsa Sound. His most well-known songs include "The Masquerade," "Delta Lady" and widely covered "A Song for You."

In July, Russell suffered a heart attack but was reportedly on the path to recovery. His wife, Jan Bridges, confirmed through the musician's official Facebook page that he died in his sleep early this morning.

Jeff Moore, director of Tulsa's upcoming OKPOP Museum, a celebration of the state's historic contributions to music and popular culture, said he, like many others, was shocked to hear the news of Russell's death.

"You look at his career, and it spans 60 years," Moore said. "He's worked with the who's who in the music industry. He's played with everyone from Willie Nelson and George Jones to Eric Clapton and George Harrison."

Moore mentioned the death of Canadian folk singer Leonard Cohen earlier this week, saying music has now lost two of its greatest songwriters. The director said Russell's death marks a sad day for Oklahoma and he hopes this event will lead even more people to his music.

Russell's career will be prominently featured in the upcoming OKPOP Museum. The museum received a large, private donation of Russell memorabilia in 2013.

"There's some key, pillar stories for OKPOP, and Leon Russell is one of those key pillars," Moore said.

In 2011, Russell was inducted into both the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame and the Songwriters Hall of Fame.

 

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