I missed Saturday Night Live last night, featuring Elton John and Leon Russell, but I was lucky enough to catch Sir Elton's recent Baltimore concert, when he and Russell teamed up on about a half-dozen songs from their album "The Union."

Elton John said he owes a great debt to Russell for his inspiration and encouragement. And as the two men stood on stage in Baltimore, the affection between them was obvious. Russell was very unsteady on his feet, and used a cane as he approached the piano, but as soon as he sat down, he belted out the songs and played like a pro.

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It's always heart-warming to see a big star recognize a mentor. And it was a great surprise to see the two musicians together in Baltimore -- though the crowd, aching to hear Elton's John's older hits, seemed underwhelmed. I was happy to hear them, because their songs recalled what are, for me, the best of Elton John's music: the ballads and honky-tonk songs on such albums as "Tumbleweed Connection."

As someone who has great admiration for the written word, I'd say the lyrics of those songs can stand up to any short story or poem. One favorite, from the opening of My Father's Gun:

From this day on I own my father's gun/We dug his shallow grave beneath the sun

I laid his broken body down below the southern land/It wouldn't do to bury him where any Yankee stands

Hard to beat that for compact, powerful imagery and story-telling.

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