At the time of sitting down to write this piece, it has been 90 minutes since I read the news of Scott Walker’s death. His label, 4AD, posted a beautifully written, poignant statement on Twitter which was 4 minutes old by the time I read it. I am genuinely heartbroken.

Scott Walker meant a lot to me, but it is at times such as these that I try to reconcile my emotions with knowing that they are projected towards an idea of a person, somebody who I would never meet, or see on stage, and rarely had any idea of the kind of person they were. So why do I feel so upset? Music is a universal force at the very essence of the human experience; it connects people, it helps us to understand certain situations through vicarious means, it soundtracks moments in our lives and it is perhaps the most immediate and therefore the most evocative of popular art forms. Music is feeling, and music allows us to feel. And Scott Walker’s voice and music made me feel more than most other artists.

Born Noel Scott Engel in America, his career spanned the mid-1960s pop pin-up mania of The Walker Brothers, to a run of four (and a half) astonishing solo albums in the later years of that decade which saw diminishing returns in terms of sales. He then quit writing his own material in the 1970s as self-doubt and alcoholism took hold before he returned to work with The Walker Brothers in 1975 for three more albums. From the 1980s onwards, Scott released an increasingly astonishing body of work at frustratingly large intervals but with each album from 1984’s Climate of Hunter through to 2014’s collaboration with Sunn O))), Soused, there was a move away from pop song structures to avant-garde experimentalism. He also wrote the score for the films Pola X, The Childhood of a Leader and Vox Lux, sang on a Bat for Lashes track, produced Pulp’s We Love Life album and composed a 24-minute commissioned piece of experimental neo-classical music for CandoCo, an inclusive (disabled and non-disabled) dance company with the music performed by the London Sinfonietta. No doubt the news this evening will skip over most of this and just go for the ‘disappeared from public view’ angle in his biography as it’s easier that way.

Scott’s output, as a solo artist and as a member of The Walker Brothers, spans not just decades but ideals. In the late 1950s, he was championed by Eddie Fisher (Carrie’s dad) and appeared on his TV show a few times and recorded a number of fairly forgettable tracks. The first Walker Brothers single (the agonisingly titled ‘Pretty Girls Everywhere’) can be dismissed in many ways as pop fluff; fodder for the masses with another bunch of pretty boys singing a superfluous song for a teenybopper audience who would soon move on to the next manufactured act as instructed to by the record labels. John Walker sang on this first track; it is not essential listening. And then they released ‘Love Her’ with Scott’s beautiful baritone front and centre, and the template was set for the melancholic tone which would permeate through Scott’s output for the next fifty (FIFTY!) years.

The lyrical themes of The Walker Brothers centred largely on love, mostly on the pains of unrequited or lost love, but as Scott moved into his solo career there was a schism which saw him embrace more challenging and ‘arty’ areas. One song was dedicated to the Neo-Stalinist Regime, another centred on the narrative in Ingmar Bergman’s masterpiece of existentialist cinema The Seventh Seal, while controversial Italian neo-realist film director Pier Paolo Pasolini, Clara Petacci (Mussolini’s mistress) and Jesse Presley (Elvis’s stillborn twin brother) were all topics of focus in his songs. It is really hard to distil his body of work into 1000 words or so, you just need to dip into his back catalogue yourself and see for yourself. And don’t believe the naysayers who say his early '70s covers work holds nothing of value as there are some gems hidden amongst the undeniably dire work whose purpose was solely to claw some money back for his record label.

In the brilliant documentary 30th Century Man, the man himself states in rare interview footage that he didn’t ‘disappear into the wilderness’ as many people saw it, he just didn’t have anything to say. This is a theme which comes up when you watch what little footage there is of him in existence talking about his career, that he didn’t feel the need to write unless there was a compulsion to do so. I suspect the steady stream of royalty cheques from The Walker Brothers probably helped this a little. There was a feeling that his output was becoming more and more personal to him, and increasingly satisfying as a result. In 2018 he stated in The Guardian that his album with Sunn O))) was “pretty perfect” and it is hard to disagree with him on this.

There are so many moments in my life that have been soundtracked by Scott Walker and no doubt they would make for boring reading if I put them all down here. My favourite, however, was listening to my then 3-year-old-daughter singing 'It’s Raining Today' in the back of the car. Music means so much to me that the thought of my children understanding this about me is of personal paramount importance. I don’t necessarily want them to like the same songs I do (though it helps), I just feel that I use music as a conduit for the trapped emotional mess that contributes to me being the particular human that I am and if my children can understand me a little more through the culture I consume then that is some way at allowing them to know me in a more nuanced way.

The limiting nature of patriarchal society’s role in teaching males how they can and cannot express their deep feelings has impacted me and although I am aware of it I am still a work in progress in letting people in to my innermost fears and joys – but music is one way that I establish links with people and I use the words of others to illustrate my own feelings without recourse to the apprehension and the seemingly inevitable mocking words of others that scar aspects of masculinity in our fucked up society.

My initial sadness on hearing of Scott’s death was that I had lost an ally, someone I could lean on to channel my self-awareness and knowledge of my own emotional state and this is where the deep connection between artist and audience is perhaps most deeply felt. I need Scott’s words and music, and although I know that they will always be there for me as products of a mechanical process, it is the sensation of loss of a significant presence in my life that weighs me down at present.

A Spotify playlist of 20 of Scott’s songs cannot begin to truly demonstrate the wide-ranging body of work that he leaves behind, but it’s a start:

Only yesterday, Scott Walker’s music was blaring in my house as the sun shone outside. His tense, melodramatic and evocatively melancholic voice is my idea of the perfect musical accompaniment to what others call a ‘nice day’. Today doesn’t feel like anything other than a terribly sad day.