PORTLAND, Ore. (KOIN) — When Dr. John, the Grammy-winning musical legend and Hall of Famer, died in June 2019 he was working on a new album.
“It’s a huge honor,” Russell told KOIN 6 News. “I can’t believe it, and for me it was just a small sketch, because usually my work is a little more finished.”
For decades Russell has been photographing and painting world-famous musicians and said this latest assignment was more than a job.
Her art is well known in Portland, especially in the blues and jazz community.
“I love music and they always say, ‘Paint what you love.’ And so that’s how I started,” she said.
She’s done several album covers in the past and many portraits of musicians at the Waterfront Blues Festival.
A former fashion illustrator, Russell met Dr. John (whose real name was Malcom John Rebennack, Jr.) at the 2016 Blues Festival. He remembered a painting Russell had done earlier, and his estate reached out to Russell for the album cover.
“They felt comfortable and they felt this is something that he would have wanted,” Russell said. “Usually I work from my own photographs but this time they furnished me with a photo.”
“Things Happen That Way,” which includes Willie Nelson and Aaron Neville, is already nominated for a Grammy.
“It’s a really great album,” Russell said. “I hope it wins its Grammy.”