Leave Regular Radio Behind
Play Live Radio
Next Up:
0:00 0:00
Available On Air Stations

10 Months Gone, Leon Russell Is Still 'Easy To Love'

Leon Russell's posthumous album <em>On a Distant Shore</em> comes out Sept. 22.
Joseph Guay
Courtesy of the artist
Leon Russell's posthumous album On a Distant Shore comes out Sept. 22.

When Leon Russell died last November, the 74-year-old star was recuperating from heart surgery and itching to get back out on the road. So it's no surprise that Russell — whose music fused soul, rock, gospel and country — left behind an impressive batch of songs that hadn't yet seen release. On Friday, 10 months after his death, On a Distant Shore continues a recorded legacy that hasn't dimmed.

Naturally, while On a Distant Shore often lets loose in rollicking celebration, its plaintive moments carry extra resonance in light of Russell's passing. A horn- and string-streaked song of love lost, "Easy to Love" doubles as a poignant remembrance of the singer himself: "You flew out of my life / Just like a mourning dove / And you were so easy to love."

In his lifetime, Russell wrote more than his share of what would become standards: "A Song for You," "Superstar" and others. "Easy to Love" itself seems to echo from another era — a lost standard from decades past — and yet its words were hours old when Russell recorded it just last year. His songs were timeless and indelible to the very end.

Copyright 2021 NPR. To see more, visit https://www.npr.org.

Stephen Thompson is a writer, editor and reviewer for NPR Music, where he speaks into any microphone that will have him and appears as a frequent panelist on All Songs Considered. Since 2010, Thompson has been a fixture on the NPR roundtable podcast Pop Culture Happy Hour, which he created and developed with NPR correspondent Linda Holmes. In 2008, he and Bob Boilen created the NPR Music video series Tiny Desk Concerts, in which musicians perform at Boilen's desk. (To be more specific, Thompson had the idea, which took seconds, while Boilen created the series, which took years. Thompson will insist upon equal billing until the day he dies.)