The music world lost three icons in November, and I’m grateful to have had the privilege of seeing them perform in Colorado.
When Leon Russell (d. Nov. 13) was recording Hank Wilson’s Back in 1973, he decided he wanted kindred spirits New Grass Revival to back him up. The veteran rocker made his Telluride Bluegrass Festival debut in 1980, teaming up with New Grass to shake the San Juan Mountains in Southwestern Colorado. Russell looked radiant in the spotlight, his sly rasp “converting” hushed fans to gospel grass with “Jesus Will Take Me Home” and “Amazing Grace.” I remember a second encore of “Roll Over Beethoven” went well beyond the curfew. It then took the emcee, Pastor Mustard, 20 minutes to convince the crowd that the magic had come to an end.
Leonard Cohen (d. Nov. 7) was experiencing a creative upsurge late in life when he performed at Red Rocks Amphitheatre in 2009 and 1stBank Center in 2012, two of the strongest, most confident shows I witnessed in the past decade. In his seventies by that time, the elegiac poet was returning to the stage after he discovered that his former business manager had embezzled millions from him; he never managed to collect the awarded damages. Cohen sang his heart out—even getting down on his knees to emphasize his dedication—serving up his catalog accompanied by a full complement of meticulously rehearsed musicians and singers.
Mose Allison (d. Nov. 15), who bridged sophisticated jazz and the Delta country blues of his childhood with pointedly observant lyrics, released 31 albums and toured for 65 years before retiring in 2012. Born in Mississippi, Allison attended Ole Miss for a year before joining the Army in 1946 and playing in the Army Band in Colorado Springs. He became British rock’s most popular jazz musician, exalted by the likes of Pete Townshend and Jack Bruce. A sparse crowd showed up at Denver’s legendary Ebbets Field nightclub in the mid 1970s, but when a fan requested a tune from his 1965 Mose Alive! album, Allison obliged in his gentlemanly way by performing several of the songs.
“They may be gone, but their music lives on…”
CMHOF Executive Director