Experimental pop icon Scott Walker died on Monday. He was 76.
Known for his avant-garde style that influenced musicians such as David Bowie and Radiohead’s Thom Yorke, Walker started out as a session musician before becoming a founding member of The Walker Brothers.
“It is with great sadness that we announce the death of Scott Walker,” his label 4AD said in statement Monday morning. “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.”
Born Noel Scott Engel in Hamilton, Ohio, the aspiring musician took the stage name Walker in 1964 with the launch of The Walker Brothers, an American pop group that found huge success in England.
Hits like “Make It Easy on Yourself” and “The Sun Ain’t Gonna Shine Anymore” sparked Beatlemania-level fandom in the ’60s, with screaming groupies known to swarm the cars of Walker and bandmates John Maus and Gary Leeds.
However, it was after he embarked on a solo career in 1967 that Walker really came into his own, with the release of four self-titled albums, “Scott,” “Scott 2,” “Scott 3” and “Scott 4.” The tone of his music became much darker as he channeled European influences such as Jacques Brel and and Léo Ferré.
Read excerpts from 4AD’s Walker obituary below.
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.
Walker is survived by his daughter, Lee, his granddaughter, Emmi-Lee, and his partner Beverly.