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Monday, March 25, 2019

Scott Walker's Death Ends a Pop Era


Scott Walker: The Sun Ain't Gonna Shine Anymore


The recent death of Scott Walker all but closes the book on '60s pop giants. His fame came at a time when a young rock 'n' roll gladly embraced a pop sound without hesitation. So long as you were young and your hair was long, you stood under the rock umbrella.

He was one of my all-time favorite singers. He put everything he had into each track. The guy was one fabulous singer. Too bad he didn't cut more songs with which people could identify. But never mind. At least he did what he wanted.

Walker--his real name was Scott Engel--began his career in America in the late 1950s. In the early 1960s, teamed with John Walker, another vocalist, and they soon found Gary Leeds, a drummer who also sang. They all adopted Walker's last name and headed to England, where in the mid-'60s the Walker Brothers found chart success. Hits there turned the group's members into major stars. "The Sun Ain't Gonna Shine Anymore," a flop for the Four Seasons in America, turned into a international hit, mainly because its English producers combined the group with an orchestra and decided to speed up the tempo of the song. Another well-known hit for the group was "Make It Easy on Yourself," written by Burt Bacharach and Hal David.

In England, the Walker Brothers' hits kept on coming. But in the States, subsequent releases failed. Scott Walker disliked the fame he had gained, and the material that was chosen for the group. When the band broke up in the late 1960s, he started a successful solo career and was rewarded with his own television show in England. The group temporarily reunited over the next decade, but its magic sound had faded. In time, Scott Walker turned to experimental recordings, which seemed almost like no music at all.

I'm just pleased that he left a lot of beautiful tapes in the can. Take a listen to him on YouTube. In the last year I bought everything he did--the real songs--from the '60s and '70s. If you want to hear him at the peak of his vocal career, listen to the moody album cut "I Don't Want to Hear It Anymore," a Randy Newman song done by the Walker Brothers. He tears up "What Are You Doing the Rest of Your Life."

The echo on that Newman song is real, and different. It makes Walker even better. Not that he needed any vocal enhancement. In his heyday, you had to be great to be called great. No Auto Tune, electronic gimmicks, or anything else that put you on key and fattened thin, whiny performances. In those days, your naked voice was out there for everyone to hear.

There were some great young pop-rock singers back then, including Gary Puckett and Billy Joe Royal on Columbia alone, but for my money, no one could do it like Scott Walker.

In the States, he was underappreciated. He left one song that is close to Ohioans, "The Lights of Cincinnati."

Goodbye, Scott. Thanks for the melodies.
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