Passings: Paul Buckmaster, Arranger & Conductor on Elton John's Early Albums (1946 - 2017)

Photo: YouTube
by VVN Music

Paul Buckmaster, the arranger, conductor and composer who was responsible for the lush backgrounds an numerous recordings, including the early albums of Elton John, has died at the age of 71.

Over the years, Buckmaster worked with David Bowie, the Rolling Stones, Nilsson, Carly Simon, Guns N' Roses and many more, but his arrangements are best heard on the first three albums of Elton John, his self-titled debut, Tumbleweek Connection and Madman Across the Water.  All three sets were showcases for John and Bernie Taupin's music with strong orchestral arrangements being integral to the sound.

Buckmaster was involved in music almost from the day he was born in London in 1946.  His mother soon had him playing piano and taught him music theory.  He soon moved to learning the cello and won first class at a music festival in the age 5 to 6 group.

In his early teens, he started a four year scholarship in Italy studying classical music but, on the side, he started branching out with an interest in jazz. He returned to England at the age of 17 to attend the Royal Academy of Music and, upon graduation, was invited to play in the Bee Gees' backing orchestra on tour.

His first major break in pop music came in 1969 when he met with Gus Dudgeon who wanted him to write arrangements for David Jones (Bowie).  The result was the orchestral parts on "Space Oddity" and "Wild Eyed Boy From Freecloud".

It was also during this time that he became friends with Miles Davis (the two would later collaborate) and, while at a David performance, he was introduced to Elton John who was working on his second album, Elton John. His arrangements can be heard throughout the album, helping to establish the John sound.  The two would collaborate throughout the 70's and beyond on the albums Tumbleweed Connection, Madman Across the Water, Don’t Shoot Me, I’m Only the Piano Player, Blue Moves, A Single Man, Made in England, and Songs from the West Coast.

Among his other works are arrangements on such classics as Songs of Love and Hate for Leonard Cohen, the Rollings Stones "Moonlight Mile", Carly Simon's "You're So Vain" and "Haven't Got Time For the Pain", Nillsson's "Without You" and the Grateful Dead's Terrapin Station.

Paul also played cello on numerous albums by artists as diverse as Caravan and Chris Barber. Up until his death, he continued working with recent projects including Idina Menzel's album Idina, Heart's Beautiful Broken, Taylor Swift's Speak Now, and the Chris Cornell track "The Promise" from the movie of the same name.


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