Scott Walker, the 1960s pop crooner-turned-enigmatic cult songwriter with the unique booming baritone, has died at age 76, leaving behind a legacy that influenced artists ranging from David Bowie to Radiohead’s Thom Yorke.
“It is with great sadness that we announce the death of Scott Walker,” announced Walker’s record label, 4AD, early Monday. “Scott Walker has been a unique and challenging titan at the forefront of British music: audacious and questioning, he has produced works that dare to explore human vulnerability and the godless darkness encircling it.” No cause of death was has yet been revealed.
So very sad to hear that Scott Walker has passed away, he was a huge influence on Radiohead and myself, showing me how i could use my voice and words. Met him once at Meltdown, such a kind gentle outsider. He will be very missed. https://t.co/v33Ey91hbn
— Thom Yorke (@thomyorke) March 25, 2019
Absolutely saddened shocked by the death of Scott Walker . He gave me so much inspiration so much I owe to him and modelled on him even down to my early S C hair cut and dark glasses .… https://t.co/ux5f9B1rjh
— Marc Almond (@MarcAlmond) March 25, 2019
From pretty boy popstar in the 60s to one of David Bowie’s main inspirations, Scott Walker was completely unique. A rarity in the ecology of rock ‘n’ roll. His operatic baritone and his abstract, individualized music & lyrics will remain beautifully https://t.co/CwhpMJbrto pic.twitter.com/1SieTmQtSD
— Michael Des Barres (@MDesbarres) March 25, 2019
Walker, born Noel Scott Engel in Hamilton, Ohio, in 1943, began his career as a mainstream entertainer, appearing on Eddie Fisher’s ‘50s television show as a child actor and eventually forming pop group the Walker Brothers with John Maus and Gary Leeds in the early ‘60s. The group became huge stars in the U.K. with two No. 1 songs, “The Sun Ain’t Gonna Shine Anymore” and “My Ship Is Coming In,” while their cover of Burt Bacharach and Hal David’s “Make It Easy on Yourself” went to No. 16 in America. At that time, the Walker Brothers’ British fan club reportedly had more members than that of the Beatles. Walker also starred in his own BBC TV show, Scott, in the late ‘60s at the peak of his pop fame.
However, as Walker, an admirer of Belgian torch singer Jacques Brel, embarked on a solo music career, his work became increasingly avant garde, and with his ambitious and orchestral fourth album, 1969’s self-composed Scott 4, he effectively turned his back on pop music. Although the album was a commercial failure, and Walker struggled creatively afterwards before reuniting in the mid-‘70s the Walker Brothers for three albums, Scott 4 came to be heralded as his most important and defining recording.
In 1984, the reclusive singer released his first solo album in 10 years, the ambient Climate of Hunter, and he worked sporadically after that, often collaborating with the younger artists who admired him and whose evangelizing had increased his public profile. For instance, in 2000 Walker curated London’s annual Meltdown Festival, recruiting Blur, Pulp’s Jarvis Cocker, Radiohead, Elliott Smith, Smog, and others to perform. In 2001, he produced Pulp’s final studio album, We Love Life. In 2006, David Bowie executive-produced the documentary Scott Walker: 30 Century Man, which featured interviews with Bowie, Brian Eno, Sting, the Smiths’ Johnny Marr, Soft Cell’s Marc Almond, Lulu, and many other Walker disciples; three years later came the companion album Music Inspired by Scott Walker: 30 Century Man, which featured contributions by the likes of Laurie Anderson and Saint Etienne.
In 2008, Walker directed the musical theater work Drifting and Tilting: The Songs of Scott Walker at London’s Barbican, which featured vocals by Cocker, Blur/Gorillaz frontman Damon Albarn, and Dot Allison. In 2009, Walker dueted with British singer Bat for Lashes’ Natasha Khan on her album Two Suns, and in 2014 he recorded Soused, a full collaborative album with metal drone experimentalists Sunn 0))).
The news of Walker’s passing has prompted the viral recirculation of Bowie’s touching reaction to a personal message from Walker on a BBC Radio One’s 50th birthday Bowie special, which aired in 1997. After Walker told Bowie, “I’d like to thank you for all the years and especially your generosity of spirit when it comes to other artists. I’ve been the beneficiary on more than one occasion, let me tell you,” Bowie was noticeably choked up and told BBC host Mary Ann Hobbs, “I see God in the window.”
here is Scott Walker wishing @DavidBowieReal a happy 50th birthday..
there were tears in David's eyes as the message played..
in real life, David's silence was much longer.. it was edited for radio.. but it was easily one minute, perhaps longer..https://t.co/es7ZMgzudO
— maryanne hobbs (@maryannehobbs) March 25, 2019
Walker’s last two recorded works were both film scores, for Brady Corbet’s The Childhood of a Leader in 2016 and the Natalie Portman musical drama Vox Lux in 2018. According to 4AD Records, Walker is survived by partner Beverly, daughter Lee, and granddaughter Emmi-Lee.
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