IGNORED OBSCURED RESTORED
A “rock death” escaped me at the end of 2017. On November 7th, Paul Buckmaster passed away at the age of 71. As yet, the cause of death has still not been disclosed.
I first became aware of Buckmaster’s work through the liner notes for Elton John’s string of six outstanding albums from Elton John (1970) through Goodbye Yellow Brick Road (1973). Throughout his career, Buckmaster arranged 52 songs for John.
But he did so much more than that. He arranged the strings on David Bowie’s first breakthrough hit, “Space Oddity.” He worked on other mega hits in the early 70s including Carly Simon’s “You’re So Vain” and Nilsson’s “Without You.” He sweetened the Grateful Dead’s “Terrapin Station” and played cello for Miles Davis. (Davis credited Buckmaster with introducing him to the work of 20th century, avant garde composer Karlheinz Stockhausen.
He also made his mark on the last minute of “Sway” from the Rolling Stones’ Sticky Fingers. But his work on that album’s “Moonlight Mile” is more noteworthy.
Mick Jagger worked with Mick Taylor on this song as Keith Richards was MIA. It was Taylor’s idea to ask Buckmaster to gin up a string arrangement for the song. Taylor expected (some would say promised) a song credit for his contributions. But upon release the credit went to the Jagger/Richards team.
Buckmaster continued to work with pop and country artist and in the mid ‘90s he contributed to “Blue” by the Jayhawks.
The songs most prominent feature is its soaring harmonies. But Buckmaster adds a subtle string arrangement that perfectly complements the emotion of the song.
Before his passing, Buckmaster worked with everyone from Counting Crows to Train, Heart to Guns N’ Roses, Carrie Underwood to Taylor Swift, Something Corporate to New Found Glory (and plenty more). His legacy will live for generations!
Enjoy… until next week.
I’d heard of Buckmaster, missed his death notice, and had no idea all the places he’d been. Thanks for this.
This is great, Tom. I did not know this much, either, and Moonlight Mile is one of my favorite Stones songs.