I would be remiss not to mention Leon Russell. He’s best known to most of us as the fellow who made Joe Cocker a star, however briefly, by putting together a rigorously-rehearsed, inhumanly competent touring band then putting Cocker up front to shake and rattle. Leon Russell was a great songwriter, hampered as a solo artist by his acquired-taste voice. But the thing I loved best about the man was a quote from an interview he did a few years ago. The writer was waiting for him in the dressing room before a show. Leon shuffled in — an old man, desperately tired and ill from numerous different chronic problems that would eventually kill him. He shook the writer’s hand. Then he said, “Give a minute to get into my Leon Russell outfit.” He came back in his late-trademark all-white suit, groomed and energetic, ready to do business.
Leon understood the idea that to perform is to step outside yourself. He never confused himself with Leon Russell. Any of us who perform music for an audience, or who write for one, should remember that same basic, humbling lesson.