Influential singer-songwriter Scott Walker has died aged 76, his record label said on Monday, after a career that took him from 1960s pop icon to 21st-century avant-garde musician.
US-born Walker, who acquired British citizenship, was the lead singer of the 1960s band The Walker Brothers. The baritone vocalist began his solo career in 1967 and was credited as an influence on top British acts over several decades including David Bowie and Pulp.
“It is with great sadness that we announce the death of Scott Walker,” his label 4AD said on Twitter. “Scott was 76 years old and is survived by his daughter, Lee, his granddaughter, Emmi-Lee, and his partner, Beverly,” it said. The label called Walker “a unique and challenging titan at the forefront of British music” and “one of the most revered innovators at the sharp end of creative music”.
Radiohead frontman Thom Yorke called Walker “a kind gentle outsider” and “a huge influence on Radiohead and myself, showing me how I could use my voice and words”. The Walker Brothers scored number one hits in Britain with “Make It Easy On Yourself” in 1965 and “The Sun Ain’t Gonna Shine Anymore” in 1966, making him a teen heartthrob in a country gripped by Beatlemania.
Other hits included “(Baby) You Don’t Have to Tell Me” and “Another Tear Falls” (1966). But at the height of his fame in the late 1960s “he retreated from the limelight”, according to the biography on 4AD’s website, and embarked on an experimental solo career. His new cinematic sound was marked by epic orchestration coupled with dark lyrics, often revolving around characters on society’s fringes.
The multi-instrumentalist scored solo hits with “Jackie” (1967), “Joanna” (1968) and “Lights of Cincinnati” (1969). Walker found inspiration from legendary Belgian singer and songwriter Jacques Brel and from his move to Britain, embracing the culture change from California. “I was in love with European film and movies and I wanted to get to Europe, I was happy running around in the fog in those days,” he told Pulp singer Jarvis Cocker during a rare interview.
Walker said he spent a lot of time in his new home “sat in pubs watching guys play darts”, helping develop a lyrical philosophy of what he described as “the ordinary being extraordinary”. As his solo career developed, the music became ever more avant-garde, exemplified by 1984’s “Climate of the Hunter”, which charted poorly but received critical acclaim.
It was to be his last album until 1995, when he surprised the pop world by releasing 12th solo long-player “Tilt”, the first of a trilogy that included “The Drift” (2006) and “Bish Bosch” (2012). His last album, “Soused” was released in 2014, charting at number 30 in the UK. Walker also collaborated with Pulp, producing the 2001 album “We Love Life”.
British singer-songwriter Marc Almond said Walker was an “absolute musical genius, existential and intellectual and a star right from the days of the Walker Brothers”. “So many songs will go round in my head forever. And that voice. We lost Bowie, now we’ve lost him. There is surely a crack in the universe,” Almond said on Instagram.
Arctic Monkeys frontman Alex Turner cited Walker as a major influence in side project “Last Shadow Puppets”—sparking a renewed interest and introducing him to a new generation of pop fans. In 2017, Walker’s music was celebrated with a concert at the London’s Royal Albert Hall. Last year, he wrote and produced the score for the film “Vox Lux”, starring Natalie Portman and Jude Law.