The legendary musician died in his sleep on Sunday morning

By Blake Bakkila
November 13, 2016 11:15 AM

Leon Russell, known as one of rock ‘n roll’s most dynamic musicians, died on Sunday morning, according to his website. He was 74.

“We thank everyone for their thoughts and prayers during this very, very difficult time. My husband passed in his sleep in our Nashville home,” Russell’s wife Jan said in a statement to PEOPLE.

“He was recovering from heart surgery in July and looked forward to getting back on the road in January. We appreciate everyone’s love and support.”

Hailing from Tulsa, Oklahoma, the musician and songwriter spent five decades performing his unique, “gospel-infused southern boogie piano rock, blues, and country music,” according to his site.

Russell emerged on the rock scene in the 1970s and at one point, Elton John was his opening act. In 2010, the two musicians collaborated on an album, The Union. In an Instagram post on Sunday, the Rocket Man celebrated the life of his “darling” pal.

“My darling Leon Russell passed away last night. He was a mentor, inspiration and so kind to me. Thank God we caught up with each other and made ‘The Union.’ He got his reputation back and felt fulfilled. I loved him and always will. #LeonRussell #RIP #TheHandsOfAngels,” John, 69, wrote.

Added John Mayer, “Thinking of Leon Russell today. He wrote so many great songs, but his “A Song For You” is one of the purest expressions of love ever written. He now lives in a place where there is “no space and time.” Everywhere and forever.”

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Russell was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 2011 after an illustrious career that started with performances when he was 14 years old, according to Reuters.

He went on to record more than 35 albums and wrote countless hits for artists including the Carpenters, Willie Nelson, Neil Diamond, Ray Charles and Aretha Franklin, among others.