Singing Legend Leon Redbone Dies at 69

Singer-songwriter Leon Redbone, who specialized in old-school vaudeville and Tin Pan Alley-style music, died Thursday, his family confirmed. Although he was 69, in true whimsical fashion, the official statement announcing his death gave his age as 127.

leon-redbone_getty-Dave Peabody : Contributor
(Photo: Dave Peabody / Contributor, Getty)

Redbone became a star even with his seemingly antiquated musical style and appeared as the musical guest on Saturday Night Live several times, including two spots in the inaugural 1975-76 season, and leading frequent appearances with Johnny Carson on The Tonight Show into the 1980s.

He's also known for singing the themes for TV's Mr. Beledevere and Harry and the Hendersons, along with contributing a duet of "Baby It's Cold Outside" with Zooey Deschanel for the soundtrack of Elf. He also voiced the animated character of Leon the Snowman for the film.

He officially retired in 2015, with a representative citing unspecified health concerns that had "been a matter of concern for some time."

A post on Redbone's website confirming his death was so full of deadpan humor and obvious fiction that it may very well have been prepared by the singer himself.


“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,” it read. “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 released 16 full-length albums over the course of his career, starting with On the Track in 1975. His final release was 2014's Flying By.