Music pioneer Scott Walker dies at 76 | Music | DW | 25.03.2019
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Music pioneer Scott Walker dies at 76

American music legend Scott Walker, whose near six-decade career spanned teen pop and avant-garde experimentation, has died. The singer-songwriter has influenced artists such as David Bowie, Marc Almond and Radiohead.

"For half a century, the genius of the man born Noel Scott Engel has enriched the lives of thousands," Scott Walker's music label, 4AD, stated on its website following the passing of Scott Walker on March 25.

The Ohio-born musician was a "solo artist, producer and composer of uncompromising originality," the statement added. "Audacious and questioning, he has produced works that dare to explore human vulnerability and the godless darkness encircling it."

Rise and decline

Rising to fame as the frontman of 1960s pop trio The Walker Brothers, which produced mega hits such as "The Sun Ain't Gonna Shine Anymore" after moving to the UK from LA, Scott Walker left the band in 1967 to hone a more experimental solo career.

A friend of and early influence on David Bowie, who once described Walker as his "idol," Walker's first eponymous solo albums, Scott, Scott 2, Scott 3, were again major hits. But Walker's ultimate success would be to inspire generations of singers and songwriters with a darker sound that echoed the dramatic, cabaret-like compositions of French singer Jacques Brel.  

With orchestral backing, Walker evolved his trademark baritone voice that was partly inspired by crooner Frank Sinatra, the musician told Jarvis Cocker of the band Pulp in an interview on BBC radio in 2017. 

But Walker was never comfortable in the limelight, turning to alcohol and producing a series of poorly received covers albums in the early 1970s. The enigmatic musician did not release any original material at the time, and despite making more records with The Walker Brothers in the mid-1970s, largely remained in obscurity until 1984's Climate of the Hunter, his first solo album in a decade.

man holds guitar (picture alliance / Photoshot)

Despite his prolific output, Scott Walker spent long periods in the musical wilderness

Late career revival

Now signed to Virgin Records, Scott Walker was enjoying a renaissance among music aficionados after the release of the best-of record, Fire Escape in the Sky: The Godlike Genius of Scott Walker, in 1981 that charted well in the UK.

Despite poor sales and further periods of recluse in the 1980s, Walker's critical standing continued to grow with the release of another compilation album, No Regrets – The Best of Scott Walker and The Walker Brothers 1965 – 1976, in 1992, which went top 5 on the UK albums chart. His avant-garde, neo-classical 1995 album Tilt pushed Walker into bold new music terrain and garnered further acclaim.

Following his next album 11 years later, The Drift, another critical success, the documentary Scott Walker: 30 Century Man, which included interviews with David Bowie and bands like Radiohead, solidified the Walker legend. The title of the 2006 documentary refers to a Walker song that was included in the soundtrack of Wes Anderson's film The Life Aquatic with Steve Zissou (2004), which also contributed to renewing interest in the singer.

After Walker's death was announced Monday, Radiohead frontman Thom Yorke tweeted that Scott Walker was "a huge influence on Radiohead and myself, showing me how I could use my voice and words." 

Former Soft Cell singer Marc Almond also paid tribute to Walker on Twitter and Instagram, writing that he was "absolutely saddened shocked by [his] death."

Since the release of his final solo record in 2012, Walker continued his prolific output, including film scores for director Brady Corbet (including The Childhood of a Leader) and collaborations with diverse musicians including American dark ambient metal duo, Sunn O))). 


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