Scott Walker has died aged 76, Getintothis’ Peter Guy reflects on one of the most innovative and enduring songwriters of the 20th century
Scott Walker, one of the most innovative and enduring songwriters of the 20th century, has died aged 76.
A teen idol who rose to fame in the Sixties as the lead singer of The Walker Brothers, his early hits included The Sun Ain’t Gonna Shine (Anymore) and Make it Easy on Yourself.
Despite the hits, his dark baritone hinted at something deeper and that was borne out in his experimental, psychedelic solo albums, which explored the complexities of love and death.
Walker then created a string of acclaimed solo albums – Scott I to Scott IV – that are regarded as some of the most adventurous and boundary-pushing pop albums of the era.
He then moved further out to the periphery of the music scene, with an increasingly experimental run of albums, including 1995’s Tilt and 2006’s The Drift, which reflected on Mussolini’s mistress, Srebrenica and 9/11.
His most recent work was music composed for the Natalie Portman movie Vox Lux.
His record label, 4AD issued the following statement: “It is with great sadness that we announce the death of Scott Walker. Scott was 76 years old and is survived by his daughter, Lee, his granddaughter, Emmi-Lee, and his partner Beverly.
For half a century, the genius of the man born Noel Scott Engel has enriched the lives of thousands, first as one third of The Walker Brothers, and later as a solo artist, producer and composer of uncompromising originality.
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.
Noel Scott Engel was born in 1943, the son of an Ohio geologist. He began his career as a session bassist, changing his name when he joined The Walker Brothers. The 1960s trio enjoyed a meteoric rise, especially in Britain, where hits like ‘The Sun Ain’t Gonna Shine Anymore’ attracted a following to rival that of The Beatles.
But the superstar lifestyle and fame was not for Scott. As an only child, he had grown up in the kind of rich, slow solitude in which imagination could flourish, and he retreated from the limelight, returning as a solo artist to release a string of critically acclaimed albums, Scott, Scott 2, Scott 3 and Scott 4. He disappeared until the late 1970’s, when The Walker Brothers re-joined for their last album together and then a solo album in the 80’s.
Another long silence and Scott then re-emerged in the 90’s and onwards with lyric-driven works that deconstructed music into elemental soundscapes. Drawing on politics, war, plague, torture, and industrial harshness, Scott’s apocalyptic epics used silence as well as real-world effects and pared-back vocals to articulate the void. Sometimes gothic and eerie, often sweepingly cinematic, always strikingly visual, his works reached for the inexpressible, emerging from space as yearnings in texture and dissonance.
From teen idol to cultural icon, Scott leaves to future generations a legacy of extraordinary music; a brilliant lyricist with a haunting singing voice, he has been one of the most revered innovators at the sharp end of creative music, whose influence on many artists has been freely acknowledged. The scope and dynamism of his vision have added dimension to both film and dance, and he has stunned audiences with music whose composition transcends genre, and whose sheer originality defies pigeonholing.
In her foreword to Sundog, the 2017 volume of Scott’s lyrics, novelist Eimear McBride had this to say of the musician’s remarkable contribution:
“Walker’s work, as Joyce’s before it, is a complex synaesthesia of thought, feeling, the doings of the physical world and the weight of foreign objects slowly ground together down into diamond. It is Pinter-esque in its menace but never shies from naked emotion… This is work that does not speak of danger, it feels like it.”
In 2017, the BBC paid tribute to Scott with a Proms concert at London’s Royal Albert Hall.
We are honoured to have worked with Scott for the last 15 years of his life.”
Music world reacts to the death of Scott Walker
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
So very sad to hear about Scott Walker…. truly one of the greats.. so unique and a real artist. On my way to work on the first day of recording OK Computer I passed him riding his bike on Chiswick High Street.. and when I got to the studio Thom was holding a copy of Scott 4..
— nigel godrich (@nigelgod) 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
The man with the mahogany voice… Scott Walker. RIP https://t.co/PWwRU6x2lR
— midge ure (@midgeure1) March 25, 2019
Scott Walker….. there’s another one of the greats gone…. the word genius gets overused for people, but I reckon this fella deserves to wear that accolade definitely !.
— Garymounfield (@Garymounfield1) March 25, 2019
— maryanne hobbs (@maryannehobbs) March 25, 2019
Sadly coincidental Scott Walker and Mark Hollis should pass within weeks of one another; two figures who travelled from the pop centre to the fascinating periphery, but maintaining their distinctive singing voices; journeymen in the best possible sense. https://t.co/EHiVdp8T4v
— David Stubbs (@sendvictorious) March 25, 2019