Make a list of all the musicians inspired by Leon Russell and the end result would rival “War and Peace” in length.
Many of those musicians gathered at Victory Baptist Church in Mt. Juliet on Friday afternoon to celebrate the life of Russell, who died Sunday at the age of 74.

Over the course of his career, which began in his teens, Russell wrote enduring classics like “A Song for You,” “Superstar” and “Delta Lady,” served as part of the legendary “Wrecking Crew” collective of session musicians, collaborated with artists like George Harrison and Joe Cocker, released his own solo records and was inducted into the Rock and Roll and Songwriter Halls of Fame.
During the two-and-a-half hour service, friends—often through tears—sang and shared memories of Russell as a mentor and a musician without peer as well as a devoted family man who adored his wife and children.
“Leon was a pure and true genius,” said music executive Jim Halsey, one of the speakers. “Part of what he did was offer healing to the world (with his music).”
Steve Ripley, who worked with Russell for decades, smiled as he remembered his time as a monitor mixer for one of Russell’s tours in the late 1970s.  One night, the star’s post-show feedback included a teasing nickname: “You’ll get it right someday, Mickey Monitor.”
“Leon Russell changed my life,” Claudia Lennear said after the service. Lennear, who flew in from Los Angeles to attend the service, was one of Russell’s Shelter People. She sang with him on his 1971 live album, Joe Cocker’s Mad Dogs and Englishmen Tour and George Harrison’s Concert for Bangladesh. “Leon and the influence he’s had on me …has just been the fabric of my life since the '70s, and something I will always cherish, will always remember, and will eternally be grateful to Leon for his wonderful music, his great leadership…I can only say ‘thank God for Leon Russell,’ and may he rest in peace.”
A number of artists who could not be present, including Bruce Hornsby, John Cowan and Jackie DeShannon, sent messages to be read aloud at the service. Elton John’s letter paid tribute to the man he first admired, then collaborated and toured with: “I can’t imagine a world without Leon’s music…He was everything I wanted to be as a pianist, vocalist and writer.”
Another memorial service will be held for Russell, an Oklahoma native, on Sunday in Tulsa.