Leon Redbone Dies
Leon Redbone, who spent 40 years helping to keep rock music's earliest musical roots alive, has died. His family announced his passing with a statement that kept up the mystique of the man who was famously hidden behind his trademark Panama hat, dark sunglasses and facial hair.
“It is with heavy hearts we announce that early this morning, May 30th 2019, Leon Redbone crossed the delta for that beautiful shore at the age of 127," they said via his official site. "He departed our world with his guitar, his trusty companion Rover, and a simple tip of his hat. He's interested to see what Blind Blake, Emmett, and Jelly Roll have been up to in his absence, and has plans for a rousing sing-along number with Sári Barabás. An eternity of pouring through texts in the Library of Ashurbanipal will be a welcome repose, perhaps followed by a shot or two of whiskey with Lee Morse, and some long overdue discussions with his favorite Uncle, Suppiluliuma I of the Hittites. To his fans, friends, and loving family who have already been missing him so in this realm he says, 'Oh, behave yourselves. Thank you ... and good evening, everybody.'"
Redbone came out of the folk scene in Toronto, having been spotted by Bob Dylan at 1972’s Mariposa Folk Festival. He signed with Warner Bros. and put out On the Right Track in 1975. That record – which contained material by such old-time luminaries Fats Waller, Hoagy Carmichael and Jimmie Rodgers, sung in a low, laconic growl – began a pattern that continued along 11 more studio albums. Redbone's most recent was 2014's Flying By; he also issued four live records before his retirement in 2015.
His unique style, couple with his amusing stage banter, earned Redbone a cult following and a couple of guest shots on Saturday Night Live in the show's first season. He returned in 1977 and 1983. Redbone also provided the theme songs for Mr. Belvedere and Harry and the Hendersons. He was re-introduced to the public in 2003 when he provided the voice of Leon the Snowman in the Christmas film Elf, singing "Baby, It's Cold Outside" with Zooey Deschanel.
Redbone never disclosed details of his background, including his age or his real name. "I don't do anything mysterious on purpose," Redbone once said. "I'm less than forthcoming, but that doesn't necessarily mean I'm mysterious. It just means I'm not inclined to go there.”
He is survived by wife Beryl Handler, daughters Blake and Ashley and three grandchildren, Devin, Amberley and Holland.