Paul Buckmaster, Bowie/Elton Arranger, Dies at 71

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Many record buyers never notice the names of arrangers on their favorite recordings, but musicians and producers are quite aware of the work they do, and many chose to employ Paul Buckmaster for the job. Buckmaster’s long list of clients included Elton John, David Bowie, the Rolling Stones, Heart, Miles Davis, Harry Nilsson (“Without You”) and Heart (their recent Beautiful Broken album), among many others. Buckmaster died yesterday (Nov. 7) in Los Angeles, at age 71. The cause of death was not reported.

Related: Paul Buckmaster wrote arrangements for Heart’s recent Beautiful Broken album

Paul John Buckmaster was born June 13, 1946, in London and played the cello beginning at age 4. He studied music and graduated from the Royal Academy of Music in the mid-’60s, after which he began writing orchestral arrangements for pop and rock songs, including David Bowie’s “Space Oddity.” His credits also include early recordings by Elton John (including “Your Song” and “Tiny Dancer” and the albums Elton John, Tumbleweed Connection and Madman Across the Water, as well as later efforts) and the Rolling Stones’ Sticky Fingers album, as well as music by Leonard Cohen, Carly Simon (“You’re So Vain”), Davis, Blood, Sweat and Tears, Mott the Hoople and the Grateful Dead, who used him on their 1977 Terrapin Station release.

Listen to Carly Simon’s classic “You’re So Vain,” arranged by Paul Buckmaster

Paul Buckmaster (from his Facebook page)

During the ’80s and beyond, Buckmaster’s stamp could be heard on music by Stevie Nicks, Kenny Loggins, Go (featuring Steve Winwood and Michael Shrieve), Lionel Richie, Counting Crows, the Wallflowers, Ben Folds, Goo Goo Dolls, No Doubt, Train, Bon Jovi, Guns N’ Roses, Heart and Taylor Swift. He worked on Chris Cornell’s final recording, The Promise.

Buckmaster sometimes played on the recordings as well, including the cello on Bowie’s The Man Who Fell to Earth soundtrack. His other film work included music for Nilsson’s Son of Dracula film. He composed the score for Terry Gilliam’s science fiction film 12 Monkeys.

Buckmaster won Grammy Awards for Best Instrumental Arrangement Accompanying Vocalist for Train’s “Drops of Jupiter” and for Best Male Vocal Performance for Dwight Yoakam’s​ “Ain’t That Lonely Yet.”

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Listen to Paul Buckmaster’s “Four Moods” from Elton John’s Friends soundtrack

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  1. 8746439
    #1 8746439 8 November, 2017, 21:14

    Nice tribute, but if I may make a correction – Paul passed away in Los Angeles, not London.

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  2. Jack
    #2 Jack 9 November, 2017, 13:15

    Fantastic arranger. The work on Elton John’s albums is phenomenal. A great talent.

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