The former 60s teen pop heartthrob, who subsequently went on to a groundbreaking avant-garde solo career, was 76 years old
Walker was born Noah Scott Engel in Ohio 1943, later growing up in California. In 1964, he worked with John Maus (no relation to the lo-fi artist), who was calling himself John Walker, to form the pop group the Walker Brothers. In 1965, the band relocated to London, where Scott Walker has been based ever since. “I haven’t been to America in many years,” he told Dazed in 2011. “If I could compound the time spent there since 1965, taking into account brief visits, funerals, etcetera, it would probably add up to three months.”
During the mid-1960s, the Walker Brothers scored a number of hits, including the #1 singles “Make It Easy On Yourself” and “The Sun Ain’t Gonna Shine (Anymore)”, driven by Walker’s distinctive croon, becoming teen heartthrobs in the process. While the Walker Brothers’ chart-topping hits were covers, Scott Walker himself was more interested in writing his own material, prompting the group to disband in 1967 at the height of their success. Walker embarked on a solo career, releasing four albums, Scott I to Scott IV, that took a more adventurous approach to the dominant 1960s pop sound.
While Walker’s solo albums were initially successful, his relationship with fame was difficult to balance, and he became reclusive from the industry. He spent years making records that were, as he described them in the 2006 documentary Scott Walker: 30 Century Man, “bloody awful”, before eventually reuniting with the Walker Brothers in 1975 to produce three albums.
Their final album together, 1978’s Nite Flights, featured four songs written by Scott Walker, some of his first original compositions in years. Those songs – including “Shutout”, “Nite Flights”, and “The Electrician” – would foreshadow Walker’s subsequent solo career, being incredibly dark, subversive, and influential (David Bowie, a huge Scott Walker fan, covered “Nite Flights” in 1993; Bowie was left speechless when Scott Walker returned the praise in a 1997 radio interview).
Still, Nite Flights didn’t sell especially well, and Walker spent more years without a record deal before returning again in 1984 with Climate of Hunter, an ambitious, atmospheric record that used the contemporary digital pop sound of the 80s. His next full-length album wasn’t until 1995, when he released the even more challenging, avant-garde album Tilt, cementing his reputation as a unique modernist composer.
In 2000, he curated Meltdown Festival, and the following year produced Pulp’s final album We Love Life. His next album, The Drift, didn’t arrive until 2006, and its surreal and abstract sound showed just how far he’d come since his early balladeer days. Although his last solo studio album, Bish Bosch, came out in 2012, he was arguably more prolific than ever during his final years, collaborating with the drone group Sunn O))) on 2014’s Soused and releasing two soundtrack albums, first the unsettling score for 2016’s Childhood of a Leader and, most recently, the score for the Natalie Portman-starring Vox Lux, both directed by Brady Corbet.
“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,” 4AD write on their website. Walker is survived by his partner Beverley, his daughter Lee, and his granddaughter, Emmi-Lee.