It’s been widely noted that 2016 has been an especially rough year for legendary musicians. Sunday brought news of the passing of the great and prolific troubadour Leon Russell at the age of 74. Russell routinely put out gold albums in the 1970s and was a profound influence on singers as varied as Elvis Costello and Frank Black.
A bit surprisingly, Russell never had a top 10 album or song until The Union, his 2010 album wth Elton John. His early composition “A Song for You” was covered by countless musicians, most notably the Carpenters, but his highest-charting track was actually “Tight Rope,” which appeared on 1972’s Carney.
It’s amusing to notice the high-powered talent that he attracted for his first album, which came out in 1970. Credited are three Stones (Jagger, Wyman, Watts), two Beatles (Starr and Harrison), plus Eric Clapton, Steve Winwood, Joe Cocker, and Klaus Voormann.
The first single he ever released was “Roll Away the Stone,” and his label Shelter put together what can only be called a “music video” but everyone insists on calling a “promo.”
The animation was by Brian Zick, a graphic artist from southern California who is known for his striking pop art illustrations. You can see the influence of Yellow Submarine but it’s also a lot like the brilliant cut-out animations of Terry Gilliam for Monty Python’s Flying Circus, which are more or less contemporaneous—I’d reckon Zick had never seen them. Zick did a bunch of album covers in the 1970s and 1980s.
More after the jump…