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SCOTT WALKER,
1943-2019

Scott Walker, a 1960s pop singer with a distinguished baritone voice who left music and returned to work in an avant-garde style that would be much celebrated over the last three decades, died Monday. He was 76.

4AD, which released his last four albums, confirmed his death without listing a case. “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,” the label wrote on its website. 

Born Noel Scott Engel in Ohio to British parents, he started working with John Walker and Gary Leeds as the Walker Brothers in 1965 under the guidance of Jack Niezsche and signing with Mercury Records.

They had nine Top 40 hits in the U.K. between 1965 and ’67. Their #1 singles, “Make It Easy on Yourself” and “The Sun Ain’t Gonna Shine Anymore,” also landed in the Top 20 in the U.S.

Walker went solo in ’67, releasing the first of four solo albums titled Scott. With each successive record, he included more originals and his Scott 4, released in 1969, was fully penned by Walker. Praised by Radiohead, David Bowie, Brian Eno and others, the album drew inspiration from areas not typically found in modern pop—an Ingmar Bergman film and the 1968 Warsaw Pact, for example.

Thom Yorke tweeted “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.”

In the early 1970s, Walker released several cover-heavy albums before reforming the Walker Brothers in 1975 and releasing three more albums. The reunited group had a hit single with “No Regrets,” but each album saw Scott Walker push the group into more adventurous, dark territory.

Walker left music for six year after 1978’s Nite Flights, reemerging with 1984’s Climate of Hunter after signing with Virgin. The label dropped after sessions failed to produce a second full-length; after a prolific run in the ‘60s and ‘70s, Climate of Hunter would be his only release in the decade.

Walker reemerged in the early 1990s, recording “Man From Reno” with Goran Bregovic before returning in 1995 with Tilt, a bleak, modernist marriage of classical music forms and rock music. As he had done earlier, a string orchestra backed Walker but the dominant sounds were often percussive and industrial; lyrics dealt with subjects such as murder, criminals, cockfighting and war.

Over the last two decades, Walker has collaborated with Bat For Lashes and Sunn O))), recorded for film (“Only Myself to Blame for the The World is Not Enough James Bond pic and scored two Brady Corbet works), produced Ute Lemper and Pulp, curated the South Bank Centre’s festival Meltdown, composed for ballet and theater companies and released two more solo albums. The Drift, released in 2006 after an 11 year hiatus, was among the best reviewed albums of the year and Mojo magazine presented him with the Mojo Icon Award. His last solo album, Bish Bosch, came out in 2012.

Most recently, he wrote and produced the score for Corbet’s 2018 film Vox Lux.

Photo by Jamie Hawkesworth

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