Leon Russell – Tight Rope

Tight Rope came out in 1972. I remember the song as with many others riding in my sister’s Vega a few years later while carrying a case of oil in the hatchback that looked somewhat like this. We would stop at least 3-4 times a week to feed it oil.

1972 Chevrolet Vega - Hot Rod for Sale - YouTube

The B-side for “Tight Rope” was “This Masquerade”, also written by Russell, which became a Top 10 hit for George Benson in 1976.

The album Carney would peak at #2 in the Billboard Album Charts and #4 in Canada. Tight Rope peaked at #11 on the Billboard 100 and #5 in Canada in 1972. It was Leon’s most popular song in his career.

His real name was Claude Russell Bridges. He was born in Oklahoma and in high school he worked with future Bread singer-songwriter David Gates. . That is a pair that is hard for me to imagine.

Leon did a lot before the public ever heard of him. He was part of the Wrecking Crew who played on Beach Boy records and hits like This Diamond Ring for Gary Lewis.

Leon Russell

The list of artists that he worked with is staggering.  Some include  The Beach Boys, Eric Clapton, Elton John, George Harrison, Ringo Starr, Bruce Hornsby, Merry Clayton, Delaney & Bonnie, Doris Day, Ray Charles,  the Byrds, Barbra Streisand, Willie Nelson, Badfinger, Steve Winwood, Frank Sinatra, The Band, Bob Dylan, J. J. Cale, B. B. King, Glen Campbell, Joe Cocker, and the Rolling Stones. He recorded 33 albums and at least 430 songs.

He sang, wrote, arranged, produced, and was one of the most sought keyboard players of his time. He was a musicians musician. He wrote the Gary Lewis hit Everybody Loves a Clown, Help Me Make It Through the Day by Freddie King, Delta Lady by Joe Cocker, and more.

You didn’t hear much about Leon by 2009. Elton John at one time opened up for Russell in his earlier days and decided to reach out to him. They made an album together in 2010 called The Union with 16 songs written by either Russell, John, Taupin, and T Bone Burnette. The album peaked at #3 in the Billboard 100, #7 in Canada, #24 in New Zealand, and #12 in the UK.

It brought Leon Russell back into prominence. He worked up until his death on November 13, 2016. He had already planned a tour starting in January 2017.

At the 7-minute mark… Leon Russell thanked Elton John with some heartfelt words at Leon’s Rock and Roll Hall of Fame induction. 

Tight Rope

I’m up on the tight wireOne side’s ice and one is fireIt’s a circus game with you and meI’m up on the tight ropeOne side’s hate and one is hopeBut the top-hat on my head is all you see

And the wire seems to beThe only place for meA comedy of errors and I’m fallingLike a rubber-neck giraffeYou look into my pastWell maybe you’re just too blind to see

I’m up in the spotlightOh does it feel rightOh altitude seems to get to meI’m up on the tight wireFlanked by life and the funeral pyrePutting on a show for you to see

Like a rubber-neck giraffeYou look into my pastWell maybe you’re just too blind to see

I’m up in the spotlightOh does it feel rightOh the altitude really gets to get to meI’m up on the tight wireFlanked by life and the funeral pyrePutting on a show for you to see


Author: Badfinger (Max)

Power Pop fan, Baseball fan, old movie and tv show fan... and a songwriter, bass and guitar player.

41 thoughts on “Leon Russell – Tight Rope”

  1. Very nice, I always liked this song. It is hard to categorize Leon Ruddell because he worked in so many music genres. Earlier in his career, Leon recorded and released an album using the pseudonym, Hank Wilson. He released an album of Country songs, and three singles from the album touched either the Hot 100 or the Country charts. Leon briefly toured with Willie Nelson, and in 1979 they released a single. The duet was a cover of the Elvis tune, Heartbreak Hotel.

    Liked by 2 people

  2. I had no idea that he worked with all those people. Wow. Now I’d like to know which songs they were. The most surprising thing is that he wrote Everybody Loves a Clown. And that he played on This Diamond Ring, one of the coolest records ever. And I forgot all about those Hank Wilson records he did. I’m not sure I ever heard them. And I already told you how much I love Tightrope.
    And also, I was never sure what a Chevy Vega looks like. It looks kind of like a not-as-good Chevelle.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. It seemed he was everywhere in the 70s…a much sought out player that is for sure. I didnt’ know about his Wrecking Crew days either as much.
      Some people get those Vegas now to race… your description is good on them…they can look pretty cool but the one in the picture is identical to the one she had…a oil burner for sure.

      Liked by 1 person

  3. Love it! Another one of the first singles I bought as a kid. I don’t know if I ever flipped it over and played ‘This Masquearade’ back then but I love that one too. A great songwriter and performer.

    Liked by 2 people

      1. it was an utterly different sounding song for radio , but I did like it. I remember my mom NOT liking it though, because it was different and those inflections, LOL!

        Liked by 1 person

      1. I think it did, but not a huge amount, but then again, I only drove it around town basically so i didn’t put a ton of miles on it. They did have that reputation. I remember when they first came out, my Dad worked in the GM factory and there was a lot of excitement for the cars (AStres and Vegas rolled down the line together, but like GMC and Chev pickups in my experience the one summer I worked there)… but a few years later they figured they were total lemons. Which led us to the Chevette…

        Liked by 1 person

      2. Oh those Vegas and cars like them now are being sold for high prices but with different engines….they don’t look bad


    1. I like that John and I agree about This Masquerade…. I like Leon’s version. He had soul built into him. Right after this he recorded that country album. He did a little of everything.

      Liked by 2 people

  4. I passed our conversation over here….I’m just reading about it now haha. I’m watching Elton talk about Leon. Wow. I had no idea of his great influence in music until seeing this. That ‘Tight Rope’ is great blues and has fantastic lyrics. Listening to it is as though you are walking a ‘tight rope’. Great songwriting and delivery. I have to hear it again lol

    Liked by 2 people

  5. Max, this is one of my favorite posts by you ever. Thank you for honoring Mr. Leon Russell. I’ve loved the guy since back in his Joe Cocker days. You’ve covered so much more info than I ever knew about who he has played with along the way. Also, you finding the video of Elton inducting him into the RRHoF and what Elton had to say and what Leon said about Elton “pulling him out of the gutter and treating him like a king.” Hard to watch because tears were blurring my eyes. At this point I only have The Greatest Hits of… but would love to get some of his other albums. Thank you again for this post ❤

    Liked by 2 people

    1. Thank you Lisa…I really appreciate that. It makes doing this worth it. My respect for Elton John went up with this. At one time Elton opened up for him and Leon had no ego…he spoke from his heart.

      Liked by 1 person

      1. I know what you mean about Elton. I’ve always loved his music but he’s gotten a lot of bad press over the years. Can’t even imagine getting back into the biz right after brain surgery! I want to hear the 2010 album they did.

        Liked by 1 person

  6. P.S. I saw a doc on him made in 1974 called, “A Poem is a Naked Person” awhile back and loved it. He was on tour and it was craaaaaazy how pumped up he got the crowd. He was like a guru offstage. Very cool movie for fans of his if they haven’t already seen it.

    Liked by 1 person

  7. This song and Leon’s songs generally were not my taste, but my uncle loved him from the beginning to the end, and I learned late in his life to appreciate what a gifted and prolific artist he was. I had no idea.

    The picture of the Vega with racing stripes looks so much like my ’72 Pinto that had those same stripes. My Pinto didn’t use or leak oil, but I might have preferred to add oil regularly than worry that my car might explode on impact. Of course I was a typical kid who thought, “It won’t happen to me.” Yikes.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. After the Vega my sister got a Bobcat that resembled the Pinto and Vega. I can’t remember if the Bobcat had the same problems with impacts but I rode in that hatch in both cars. That is so crazy when you look back.


      1. I remember the Bobcats too. I have no idea if they had the impact risks. I never heard about them if they did. Yeah, it would have been crazy to ride in the hatchback either way. Which reminds me of those little Subaru pickups that actually had seats back in the pickup bed. They looked like amusement park ride seats. Good lord.

        Liked by 1 person

      2. I just looked it up…some earlier models did have the same problem. That makes me feel real lucky lol.


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