Singer-Songwriter Scott Walker Dies At 76

Mar 25, 2019
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AUDIE CORNISH, HOST:

We want to remember a musician now who had an independent spirit. Scott Walker died this weekend at age 76. But unless you lived in the United Kingdom in the '60s, you might not have heard of him.

AILSA CHANG, HOST:

Scott Walker was from Ohio and was born Noel Scott Engel. Along with two other Americans, he became one of the three Walker Brothers - though, none of the three musicians was actually named Walker. The group had its first hit with "Make It Easy On Yourself," then this one, "The Sun Ain't Gonna Shine Anymore."

(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "THE SUN AIN'T GONNA SHINE ANYMORE")

THE WALKER BROTHERS: (Singing) The sun ain't gonna shine anymore.

JEM ASWAD: Their hits in England were more like, you know, teens kind of hits here. They had some familiarity, but it was nothing approaching the kind of success that they enjoyed in England.

CORNISH: That's Variety's Jem Aswad. He says way before The Walker Brothers, as a teenager, Scott Walker's talent was evident. He performed this song on "The Eddie Fisher Show."

(SOUNDBITE OF TV SHOW, "THE EDDIE FISHER SHOW")

SCOTT WALKER: (Singing) When is a boy a man? When can he stand with the world in his hand?

ASWAD: Even as a child, it's identifiably him. He had that incredible baritone range, and it sounds like that may have been even before his voice dropped.

CHANG: After The Walker Brothers broke up, Scott Walker kept making music.

ASWAD: He released three solo albums that were still commercially oriented but increasingly less so.

(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "JACKIE")

WALKER: (Singing) And if I joined the social whirl, became procurer of young girls, then I would have my own bordellos.

CORNISH: That song, "Jackie," from the album, "Scott 2," was a Jacques Brel tune. Leading artists such as David Bowie were influenced by Walker. There was this tweet today from Radiohead's Thom Yorke.

CHANG: He was a huge influence on Radiohead and myself, showing me how I could use my voice and words.

CORNISH: In recent years, Ed Horrox of the record label 4AD signed Walker and set him up with the band Sunn to collaborate.

ED HORROX: I was looking through some old photographs actually, earlier today, and saw a photograph I took of eight double basses lined up when he was doing the strings for the album "Bish Bosch." He was happiest in the studio, not much of a man for smalltalk.

(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "BULL")

WALKER: (Singing) Keep moving on. Keep moving on.

CORNISH: His career took many starts and stops. But in the end, he was recognized as great talent, says Variety's Jem Aswad.

ASWAD: It took a while for the rest of the world to catch up with him. What he is really a shining example of is the artist purely following their own muse.

CHANG: Scott Walker died this weekend at age 76.

(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "BULL")

WALKER: (Singing) Raris dolor. Bump the beaky. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.