Russ Ellis Cut His First Album at Age 85, and It’s A Bop

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Russ Ellis
Russ Ellis (Nancy Rubin / Courtesy of Ashby Village)

Russ Ellis is a man for all seasons. He was a track star at UCLA, the first black professor to teach at Claremont and a UC Berkeley vice chancellor for student affairs and architecture professor. When Ellis retired in 1994, he threw himself into new pursuits. Painting classes. Sculpture. A men’s group. His latest venture is his first album, “Songs from the Garden,” which includes 11 tracks he wrote and recorded and is available on local label Berkeley Cat Records. In his words, he’s “kissing the joy as it flies.” We’ll talk with Ellis about his music and how this age has given him the gift of being “too old to get nervous.”


Russ Ellis, professor emeritus, UC Berkeley School of Architecture. At age 85, Ellis recorded his first album of original songs, "Songs from the Garden"