First album in decades as Russell overcomes grief and addiction

Soul singer Russell Oliver Stone completes a long process of healing to put tragedy and addiction behind him for his first new album in 36 years, Love Aspects.

Soul singer Russell Oliver Stone completes a long process of healing to put tragedy and addiction behind him for his first new album in 36 years, Love Aspects.

As R&J Stone, Russell, who lives in Liss, enjoyed a worldwide hit with his wife Joanna with their infectious, cheeky, self-penned song We Do It in 1976 – a hit Russell admits it was hard to follow up.

But the key proved to be a writing trip to Munich where the songs started to tumble out.

“I phoned Joanna and said that it was working out really well.”

But just months later, Joanna was diagnosed with a malignant brain tumour. She died nine months later, aged 37. Russell’s life fell apart. His drink addiction spiralled out of control. If he hadn’t found the strength to pull back, he knows that he too would have succumbed.

Determined to find a way forward, Russell started to study, and in 1998 he gained a diploma as an integral counsellor. In 2004 he was awarded an MA in transpersonal psychotherapy and counselling, and in the process became a transpersonal psychotherapist. He now runs a private practice helping people with a broad range of emotional psychological issues and those seeking spiritual growth.

And it’s this that has allowed him to go back to those Munich songs. Three are on the album. With their release, the circle is complete, as Russell says.

“Joanna lasted just nine months. The consultant at the time advised me not to tell her she was dying. I was just so shot away that I agreed. I would do things differently now, but for six months she didn’t know. It was horrible trying to keep it from her that she was dying. After six months, she said ‘We need to talk’. I took her for a drive. It was terrible telling her that she was dying. You wouldn’t wish that on anyone, especially not a young woman with young children.

“Towards the end, she was heading towards a coma. I had to take her to the hospital. She was begging me not to take her because she knew she was going there to die. Again, I would do it differently now. I would have kept her at home, but the culture was different. You just didn’t know that you could do that.”

The children were two and nine: “It was heart-rending.”

And it saw Russell lose his grip.

In 1983, with Russell now struggling with alcohol dependency, Tommy LiPuma, one of the world’s biggest producers at the time, set about negotiating a solo record deal for him with Warner Bros in America.

But when Russell flew out to Los Angeles to begin negotiations with the label’s executives, it quickly became clear he was out of control.

“I was a drunk,” he admits. “The record company sent some representatives in a limousine to pick me up from the airport. On the way to the hotel we stopped at some traffic lights and I just got out and started staggering down the street. ‘What are you doing? Where

are you going?’ the label’s guys shouted. I just remember laughing and shouting back, ‘I don’t know!’”

The collapse of the deal, plus the complete collapse of any career he once had, triggered Russell’s worst phase of drinking, continuing until 1992 when he finally attended a rehab clinic in Basingstoke for six weeks.

Now, all these years later, he realises what it was that Joanna gave him: “She awoke something in me. I didn’t realise it at the time. She awoke the soul part of myself. I was together with her to share her living and dying. That’s the gift she gave me – of learning and growing; of learning that everybody dies. The tragedy is that she died young.”

Love Is All on the album is one of those Munich songs: “When I started to sing it, she just came into my mind so powerfully, and she was smiling.”

Love Aspects (on Right Track Records) is an album packed with classic soul grooves, slick funk beats and late-night lyrics of seduction and heartbreak.

As Russell says: “This is my reward for pursuing so relentlessly that which I did not know I was pursuing. I couldn’t have made this album before now, though. I wasn’t ready.”