APACHE, OK (KSWO) -A Southwest Oklahoma family is mourning the loss of legendary singer and song writer, Leon Russell, who died Sunday at the age of 74.
Russell was born in Lawton and grew up in Apache. He began his career as a nightclub piano player in Oklahoma at the age of 14, also backing touring artists when they came to town.
Russell produced and played on recording sessions for Bob Dylan, Frank Sinatra, Ike and Tina Turner, the Rolling Stones and many others. In 2011, Russell was chosen for induction into the Songwriters Hall of Fame. He also was honored with an Award for Music Excellence from the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame.
"When you go and see someone that you actually know on stage, it's very touching, very touching," said Dorie Denney, Russell's cousin. "Then, you get to see them later, that's even better. It's just once in a lifetime you get to do."
Denney says although he was known for his music career, his family was always his top priority. Denney says the family always traveled to watch him perform, and it always made her so proud to see him doing what he loved. Denney says it's been overwhelming seeing the love and support from his fans since his passing.
"To know someone that is that popular and that you actually know the warmth that he had and that he was giving to people, but he also got it in return," said Denney. "It's wonderful."
Sharon Roberts, a family friend who grew up with Russell in Apache says she's been reminiscing on the good times they had together. She remembers how much time Russell spent on music when he was little.
"We were all outside playing and his mother called him in and he had to go practice the piano," said Roberts. "My cousin and I thought, my gosh, we're having fun and he has to go do that, but then when you look back, look what practicing that piano did for him. He's a really talented guy."
Denney says they're lucky to still have Russell's songs he wrote and the music he played that they can listen to and cope to.
"It's wonderful that you have that, that you're able to have it and think of him every time you hear it," said Denney.
The family says public funeral arrangements for Leon Russell will be in Tulsa on Sunday, November 20th at 2 p.m. at the Oral Roberts University Mabee Center. Doors open at 1 p.m.