FEATURE: Another Icon Leaves Us: The Great Scott Walker



Another Icon Leaves Us

IN THIS PHOTO: Scott Walker/ALL PHOTOS/IMAGES: Getty Images/Press

The Great Scott Walker


IN the last few moments...

news has broken regarding the death of Scott Walker. It is not long since we said goodbye to Dick Dale and Keith Flint and it seems like another icon has left us. I saw the news reported by 4AD and it has been shared on social media. They report the following:

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”.

It is another bleak day for music and, as we have just gotten through the horror of losing a couple of huge names, we have to do the same again. Few of us realised Walker was ill so this news has come out of the blue. To me, his voice and music is like nothing else and, in a world where there are few unique artists, his death leaves a very big hole. To me, Scott 2, is his best album and that 1968 treasure defines who Walker is as an artist. The sheer passion and gravitas in his voice; the way he articulates and the passion he brings to every performance – will we ever see his like again? The man was definitely a character and, whether he was disguising himself so he could watch a gig unrecognised or on the stage and singing to adoring masses, there was nobody like him, that is for sure. It is sad we have to pay tribute to another artist but, if you have not heard of Walker, make sure you do check him out. His music has inspired scores of other artists and it is impossible to say just how far his legacy and name spreads. Details will come through but it is another black day for music and one where we have to see a legend pass. It is a good time to revisit Walker’s rich catalogue and remind ourselves why he is regarded as one of the finest voices ever. Many will pay tribute to him today but, if you can, play the great man’s music and his incredible voice will take you…

SOMEWHERE wonderful…