R.I.P. Paul Buckmaster

Paul Buckmaster via YouTube.com

From The New York Times (Neil Genzlinger):

Paul Buckmaster, whose orchestral arrangements brought power and poignancy to signature songs by David Bowie, Elton John, the Rolling Stones, Carly Simon and countless other rock, pop, country and jazz stars, died on Nov. 7 at his home in Los Angeles. He was 71.

McDaniel Entertainment, which represented Mr. Buckmaster, announced the death. The cause was not given.

Mr. Buckmaster was something of a child prodigy on the cello and might have made a career solely as a musician, but a few fortuitous introductions connected him to Mr. Bowie and brought him the assignment of arranging “Space Oddity,” the eerie 1969 Bowie song that begins with the lyric “Ground control to Major Tom.”

Not long after, at a concert by Miles Davis (with whom Mr. Buckmaster would later collaborate), someone introduced him to a singer and pianist then in his early 20s, Elton John, who was working on his second album, which would be released in 1970 as simply “Elton John.”

Mr. Buckmaster was invited to do the arrangements, putting his fingerprints on one of the most acclaimed albums of the period. (It lost the Grammy Award for album of the year to Simon and Garfunkel’s “Bridge Over Troubled Water.”) His string enhancements elevate “Your Song,” Mr. John’s breakthrough single off that album. It was Mr. Buckmaster’s idea to put a harp at the start of “Sixty Years On,” which opens Side 2. He would continue to work with Mr. John regularly.

“He helped make me the artist I am,” Mr. John wrote on Twitter after the death, calling Mr. Buckmaster “a revolutionary arranger” who “took my songs and made them soar.”

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