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Leon Redbone (1949–2019), singer-guitarist known for his Tin Pan Alley-style

by Kirk Fox

Popular singer appeared many times on “SNL” and Johnny Carson’s “Tonight Show.”

Leon Redbone was a popular singer and guitarist known for his love of performing vaudeville and Tin Pan Alley songs who appeared many times on “Saturday Night Live” and “The Tonight Show” with Johnny Carson. Though his act was unusual, he developed a strong cult following, known for wearing a Panama hat, dark sunglasses, and a black tie. Redbone sang the theme song for the sitcom, “Mr. Belvedere,” appeared on film and TV shows, and voiced Leon the Snowman in the movie “Elf.” He released 16 albums during his career. Fans included Bob Dylan and Jack White.

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Died: Thursday, May 30, 2019. (Who else died on May 30?)

Details of death: Died at the age of 69, according to a post on his website.

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The fitting humorous statement on his passing: It is believed that Redbone pre-wrote the farewell message posted on his website announcing his death. Even if he did not, it was a fitting tribute filled with deadpan humor: “Leon Redbone crossed the delta for that beautiful shore at the age of 127.” “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.”…

What they said about him: “Leon interests me. I’ve heard he’s anywhere from 25 to 60, I’ve been [a foot and a half from him] and I can’t tell, but you gotta see him. He does old Jimmie Rodgers, then turns around and does a Robert Johnson.” —Bob Dylan in 1974 to Rolling Stone

“He’s probably the best combination of singer-guitarist I’ve ever heard.” —Bonnie Raitt

Full obituary: Chicago Tribune

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