In 1975 I had a mood ring on my finger and was bursting with pride over my roles as the first lieutenant of the safety patrol and editor of our 3 room schoolhouse newspaper, The Stockton Stinger. But by far, the most important thing to happen to me that year was the introduction of Elton John to my world.
I don’t recall how his Greatest Hits album ended up in my parents' stereo cabinet alongside a dozen other albums which included the soundtrack to West Side Story, an LP of Bobby Gentry and Glenn Campbell duets and several Johnny Cash albums.
The following year I sketched a poster for the classroom bulletin board featuring Elton behind a groovy, rainbow keyboard and I wrote Sir Elton Hercules John a fan letter. I was mad for him in every way. I had taken to wearing large sunglasses and, if my mom had allowed me, I would have enthusiastically donned a Bob Mackie-designed glittered Dodgers baseball uniform. Tomboy glam suited me.
So to read Elton John’s new autobiography, Me, some 40 years later is to re-experience all the reverence and awe I once felt and will always feel for Sir Elton. Not only does he dish about the music industry, and importantly, the struggles of being gay in the ’70s, but his book is an education in rock and roll and a tribute to many of the artists that inspired him.
The iconic Leon Russell is one of those inspirations. Just watch Elton’s introduction at the 2011 Rock and Roll Hall of Fame to begin to understand Russell’s mind-blowing canon of work. Russell’s "A Song For You" was recorded by dozens of artists from Ray Charles to Whitney Houston. Worth noting, it’s also the title of Robyn Crawford’s upcoming memoir detailing her relationship with the pop star Whitney Houston.
Perhaps one of Russell’s finest endeavors was his collaboration with Elton John. That album, The Union, introduced a whole new generation to the genius of Leon Russell. "In the Hands of Angels," a musical thank you note and the last song ever written by Russell, tells the story of Elton John’s generosity and graciousness. Listen and weep.