Magic Mirror ~ Leon Russell

leon-russellLeon Russell  is an American musician and songwriter, who has recorded as a session musician, sideman, and maintained a solo career in music.

Born in Lawton, Oklahoma, he began playing piano at the age of four. Russell attended Will Rogers High School in Tulsa, Oklahoma. At this time he was already performing at Tulsa nightclubs. After moving to Los Angeles, he became a session musician, working as a pianist on the recordings of many notable musical artists since the 1960s. By the late 1960s, Russell diversified, becoming successful as an arranger  and wrote and co-wrote songs. As a musician, he worked his way from gigs as a sideman to well known performers. By 1970 he had graduated to solo recording artist, although he never ended all his previous roles within the music industry.

Russell was inducted into the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame on Monday, March 14, 2011, at a black-tie dinner at The Waldorf-Astoria hotel in Manhattan.

Russell began his musical career at the age of 14 in the nightclubs of Tulsa, Oklahoma. He and his group The Starlighters, which included J.J. Cale, Leo Feathers, Chuck Blackwell and Johnny Williams,were instrumental in creating the style of music known as the Tulsa Sound. After settling in Los Angeles, he studied guitar with James Burton. Known mostly as a session musician early in his career, as a solo artist he has crossed genres to include rock and roll, blues, and gospel music, playing with artists as varied as Jan & Dean, Gary Lewis, George Harrison, Gram Parsons, Delaney Bramlett, Ringo Starr, Doris Day , Andre Beeka, Elton John, Ray Charles, Eric Clapton, The Byrds, The Beach Boys, The Ventures, Willie Nelson, Badfinger, Tijuana Brass, Frank Sinatra, The Band, Bob Dylan, BB King, Dave Mason, Glen Campbell, and The Rolling Stones.

As a first call studio musician in Los Angeles, Russell played on many of the most popular songs of the 1960s, including some by The Byrds, Gary Lewis and the Playboys, Bobby “Boris” Pickett, and Herb Alpert. He can be seen in 1964’s “The T.A.M.I. Show”, playing piano with “The Wrecking Crew” (an informal name for the top L.A. session musicians of the 1960s), sporting short, dark, slicked-back hair, in contrast to his later look. Soon after, he was hired as Snuff Garrett’s assistant/creative developer, playing on numerous #1 singles, including “This Diamond Ring” by Gary Lewis and the Playboys. He wrote or co-wrote two hit songs for Gary Lewis and Playboys: “Everybody Loves a Clown” (which hit the Billboard Top 40 on October 9, 1965, remaining on the chart for 8 weeks and rising to number 4) and “She’s Just My Style” (which hit Billboard’s Top 40 on December 18, 1965 and rose to number 3). He played xylophone and bells on the 1966 single “The Joker Went Wild”, sung by Brian Hyland and penned by Bobby Russell (no relation to Leon). He also worked sessions with Dorsey Burnette and Glen Campbell on Campbell’s 1967 album Gentle on My Mind, where he was credited as “Russell Bridges” on piano.

Russell’s first commercial success as a songwriter came when Joe Cocker recorded the song “Delta Lady” for his 1969 album, Joe Cocker!  The album, produced and arranged by Russell, reached #11 on the Billboard 200. Russell went on to organize and perform in the tour supporting Cocker’s album, Mad Dogs and Englishmen. “Superstar”, co-written by Russell, Delaney Bramlett and Bonnie Bramlett, was sung by Rita Coolidge on that tour and later proved a success for The Carpenters, Luther Vandross, Sonic Youth and other performers.

Magic Mirror

Magic Mirror is the final cut on Leon Russell’s third studio album, Carney which was released in June, 1972.

I’m standing by the highway
Suitcase by my side
Ain’t no place I want to go
I just thought I’d catch a ride

Many people look my way
And many pass me by
In moments of reflection
I wonder why

To the thieves I am a bandit
The mothers think I’m a son
To the preachers I’m a sinner
Lord I’m not the only one

To the sad ones I’m unhappy
To the losers I’m a fool
To the students I’m a teacher
With the teachers I’m in school

To the hobos I’m imprisoned by everything I own
To the soldier I’m just someone else who’s dying to go home
The general sees a number, a politician’s tool
To my friends I’m just an equal in this whirlpool

Magic mirror won’t you tell me please
Do I find myself in anyone I see?
Magic mirror if we only could
Try to see ourselves as others would

To policeman I’m suspicious it’s in the way I look
I’m just another character to fingerprint and book
To the censors I’m gramography with no redeeming grace
To the hooker I’m a customer without a face

The sellers think I’m merchandise, they’ll have me for a song
The left ones think I’m right,
The right ones think I’m wrong
And many people look my way
And many pass me by
And in my quiet reflection I wonder why

Magic mirror won’t you tell me please
Do I see myself in anyone I meet?
Magic mirror if we only could
Try to see ourselves as others would

  • Audio from the 1972 album, Carney:
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About DJ Allyn

DJ Allyn is a burned out radio guy who went on to become a burned out sound engineer for a few Seattle area grunge bands in the 1980s and 1990s. Left the madness of worldwide tours with bands, cleaned up my act and went into the relative sanity of sound engineering for television series. Currently working as the Director of Sound for a television series being filmed in North Vancouver, British Columbia. I am always on the lookout for interesting videos, old music, and fun.

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