The Wire

The world's greatest print and online music magazine. Independent since 1982

News

Scott Walker has died

His current label 4AD announced the news on 25 March

“It is with great sadness that we announce the death of Scott Walker,” reveals record label 4AD’s announcement. “Scott was 76 years old and is survived by his daughter, Lee, his granddaughter, Emmi-Lee, and his partner Beverly.” Born Noel Scott Engel on 9 January 1943 in Hamilton, Ohio, he rose to fame with American pop trio The Walker Brothers alongside John Maus and Gary Leeds. Moving to the UK in 1965, the group achieved widespread success with "Make It Easy On Yourself" and "The Sun Ain't Gonna Shine (Anymore)" reaching number 1 in the UK single charts. In 1967 he launched his solo career with Scott, followed by Scott 2, Scott 3 and Scott 4, a quartet of lush records influenced by existentialism, Jacques Brel and baroque pop. He had started his career as a session bassist, but lyrics were increasingly taking the lead in his songs. The fourth record was a commercial failure, having originally been released, on Walker’s suggestion, under the name Noel Scott Engel. Around this time he is rumoured to have studied Gregorian chant at Quarr Abbey on the Isle Of Wight in 1966, and his haunting baritone became the focal point of his 60s recordings.

The 70s were a turbulent time for Walker as he drifted in and out of periods of alcohol and tranquilliser use, while recording a number of patchy albums often heavy on cover versions. The Walker Brothers reunited to make a pair of covers albums in the 1970s, in advance of a complex final album Nite Flights (1978), divided equally songs by each Walker Brother, and featuring Scott’s nightmarish “The Electrician”, written from the point of view of a CIA torturer, and introducing themes of mortality and geopolitical power that increasingly came to influence his later work. In 1984 he released Climate Of Hunter, an album whose dizzying range of contributors included saxophonist Evan Parker and Dire Straits guitarist Mark Knopfler. There followed another lengthy hiatus before 1995’s powerful Tilt. He put his solo career on hold once again and worked on a selection of other projects, including the soundtrack for Leos Carax’s film Pola X. He also recorded vocals for David Arnold & Don Black’s “Only Myself To Blame” for the James Bond film The World Is Not Enough. Although it failed to make the cut on screen, it was included on the album release. Film had long been an inspiration for Walker – in 1972 he released The Moviegoer, an album of film themes that failed to chart and Scott 4’s “The Seventh Seal” was inspired by the Ingmar Bergman film. “It isn’t deliberate, but I am a film addict and it has influenced my work,” he told Mike Barnes in The Wire 346. “I can hear it in lots of ways, but it doesn’t register with me that I’m creating a scene or anything. I think there’s a lot of visualisation in my songs, a lot of imagery and sometimes I’ll be hitting one after the other.”

In 2006 he released The Drift, his first solo album in 11 years, followed by Bish Bosch in 2012, and his Sunn O))) collaboration Soused in 2014. He went on to score the soundtracks for Brady Corbet’s films The Childhood Of A Leader (2015) and Vox Lux (2018).