A Song For You

Album: Leon Russell (1970)

Songfacts®:

  • Russell wrote this song for the singer Rita Coolidge, whom he was dating at the time. They met in the late '60s when Russell was one of the top session piano players and Coolidge was getting started as a singer. Russell wrote a song called "Delta Lady" about her that Joe Cocker recorded in 1969. She was again his muse on "A Song For You," which finds him singing about their deep connection when they are alone. It's a very intimate love song that hits hard with a line in the last verse:

    I love you in a place where there's no space or time

    Coolidge called it "The most beautiful song ever written."
  • Russell did songwriting and arrangements on a string of pop hits for Gary Lewis & the Playboys in the mid-'60s before going in a blues direction on session work for Delaney & Bonnie and The Rolling Stones. At this time, when he wrote songs, he had other artists in mind to sing them. "A Song For You" was aimed at Frank Sinatra.

    "It's easy to write a blues song but I wanted to write one Sinatra might sing, which takes a little doing," he told Mojo.
  • Russell included this song on his first solo album in 1970, but it wasn't released as a single. In 1971, was popularized by two very different singers: the crooner Andy Williams, and the R&B sensation Donny Hathaway (Williams made #82 US with his version). The female singer Jaye P. Morgan also recorded a popular version that year, and the Carpenters made it the title track of their 1972 album.

    Ray Charles released his version in 1993, which bubbled under at #104; Herbie Hancock recorded it with Christina Aguilera on vocals for his 2005 album Possibilities; Whitney Houston included a disco-inflected, Stargate-produced rendition on her 2009 album I Look To You, where it was the only cover song.

    The song also got attention from singing shows. In 2006, American Idol contestant Elliott Yamin sang it on the show, earning raves from Simon Cowell, who referred to the performance as a "vocal masterclass." In 2008, X Factor winner Leon Jackson released the song on his debut album Right Now.
  • Despite this song, Russell and Rita Coolidge didn't make it as a couple; she moved on to several high-profile romances with Jim Gordon (a popular drummer who turned out to be paranoid schizophrenic and murdered his mother in 1983), Stephen Stills, Graham Nash and Kris Kristofferson. Coolidge spoke well of Russell in her autobiography, where she explained that he could be reclusive, but also magnetic.
  • Amy Winehouse was one of the many soul singers influenced by Donny Hathaway's version of this song. A version she recorded in 2009 appeared two years later on her posthumous album Lioness: Hidden Treasures.

Comments: 2

  • Tammy K from PaThis song touches people at their very core, even though he wrote it for a woman that he loved, it could speak to so many people in so many ways. The lyrics resonate with me in a different way, as a Singer & Performer. When he says " I love you in a place where there's no space or time, I love you for my life, you are a friend of mine " To me, I would be singing that to many people that have touched my life in one way or another.
    It is a Love Song, & we all have many loves, if we are lucky. Brilliant, can't wait to sing this song.
  • Robert from Johns Creek, GaI'm honored to be the first commentator. :) If there is healing in music, this song has no equal. I agree with Rita Coolidge. It is the most beautiful song. I was fortunate to have seen Leon Russel live at the Atlanta Fulton County Stadium, circa 1973.
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