Leon Russell, born April 2, 1942

Today is the Christian faith’s Good Friday. This year, it’s also the birthday of Lawton, Oklahoma native Claude Russell Bridges, known to the world as Leon Russell. So, if you’re listening to Holy Week-appropriate music, I humbly suggest you mix in Leon’s “Roll Away the Stone” with Handel’s Messiah. It’s not exactly a hymn, but it’s certainly full of Easter imagery.

In my life as a writer and journalist, I’ve put down a great number of words about Leon and what he did for America’s pop music generally and Tulsa’s rockers specifically. But I believe the best summation I’ve ever heard re: Leon’s influence on the latter came from the great Tulsa drummer Jim Karstein. Interviewed for a documentary I’ve been working on with filmmakers Britni Harris and Josh Downing, Jim said, “Leon was the one who kicked down the door so the rest of us could get through.”

Perfect, Jim. And happy birthday, Leon Russell.