Open main menu

Paul John Buckmaster (13 June 1946 – 7 November 2017) was a Grammy Award-winning British artist, arranger, conductor and composer.

Paul Buckmaster
Background information
Birth namePaul John Buckmaster
Born(1946-06-13)13 June 1946
London, England
Died7 November 2017(2017-11-07) (aged 71)
GenresClassical, rock, pop, social music, country, film score
Occupation(s)Musician, composer, arranger, film composer, conductor
InstrumentsCello, synthesizer

He is best known for his orchestral collaborations with David Bowie, Elton John, Harry Nilsson, The Rolling Stones, Carly Simon, Shawn Phillips and Miles Davis in the 1970s, followed by his contributions to the recordings of many other artists, including Stevie Nicks, Lionel Richie, Celine Dion, Carrie Underwood, Kenny Rogers, Guns N’ Roses, Taylor Swift, Train, and Heart.

Early lifeEdit

Paul Buckmaster was born in London on 13 June 1946. His father, John, was a British-born actor, and his mother, Ermengilda Maltese, was a concert pianist and a graduate of the Naples Conservatory of Music.[1]

At age four, Buckmaster started attending a small private school in London called the London Violoncello School, and continued studying cello under several private teachers until he was ten. In 1957, his mother took him and his two siblings to Naples, where he auditioned with cello professor Willy La Volpe, to be assessed as eligible for a scholarship. From 1958 to 1962 he divided his time between studying music in Naples and working for his GCEs in London, then won a scholarship to study the cello at the Royal Academy of Music, from which he graduated with a performance diploma in 1967.[1]


Studio workEdit

Buckmaster displayed professional mastery as a cellist. However, he soon started his career as an orchestral arranger on various hit songs, including David Bowie's "Space Oddity" (1969),[2][3] and contributed orchestral collaborations on a number of early albums by Elton John (1969–72), and on The Rolling Stones' album Sticky Fingers (1971). Buckmaster also helped Miles Davis with the preparation of On the Corner (1972). He wrote the arrangements for the studio sessions, in which he also participated, at Davis' request, by humming bass lines and rhythms to lead the musicians. The arrangements he wrote were often used as a starting point to be transformed until what was being played bore no resemblance to what he had written. This was in keeping with the Stockhausian approach that Buckmaster had been discussing with Davis in the weeks leading up to the session.[1]

Film workEdit

Buckmaster also played with Bowie and his band in the recordings for the original soundtrack to the science fiction film The Man Who Fell to Earth, in which David Bowie starred as Thomas Jerome Newton. Buckmaster himself told in the book 60 Years of Bowie that he had played cello on the original soundtrack recordings,[4] on which Carlos Alomar, J. Peter Robinson and others were also included. Buckmaster: "There were a couple of medium tempo rock instrumental pieces, with simple motifs and rifly kind of grooves, with a line-up of David's rhythm section (Carlos Alomar et al.) plus J Peter Robinson on Fender Rhodes and me on cello and some synth overdubs, using ARP Odyssey and Solina. There was also a piece I wrote and performed using some beautifully made mbiras (African thumb pianos) I had purchased earlier that year, plus cello, all done by multiple overdubbing." Later film-director Nicolas Roeg decided not to use the recordings but existing songs as soundtrack for the movie.[5]

Buckmaster also wrote some instrumental tracks for the 1974 Harry Nilsson film Son of Dracula.

In 1995 Buckmaster composed, orchestrated, conducted and produced the original score to Terry Gilliam's 12 Monkeys, a science fiction movie starring Bruce Willis, Madeleine Stowe and Brad Pitt.[6]

Buckmaster wrote the score for the 1997 film Most Wanted, starring Keenen Ivory Wayans (who also wrote the film) and Jon Voight. Its soundtrack was released by Milan Records on 14 October 1997.[6][7]


Selected discographyEdit


  1. ^ a b c Sweeting, Adam (19 November 2017). "Paul Buckmaster obituary". The Guardian. ISSN 0261-3077. Retrieved 1 January 2018.
  2. ^ Lanz, Michelle (16 May 2016). "Inside the rock star's studio with music arranger Paul Buckmaster". Southern California Public Radio. Retrieved 1 January 2018.
  3. ^ Cole, George (30 September 2010). "Elton John, the Beach Boys and the fine art of pop alchemy". Retrieved 8 November 2017.
  4. ^ "Paul Buckmaster". The Times. 15 November 2017. ISSN 0140-0460. Retrieved 1 January 2018.
  5. ^ Browne, David (8 November 2017). "Paul Buckmaster, Essential Arranger for Bowie and Elton, Dead at 71". Rolling Stone. Retrieved 1 January 2018.
  6. ^ a b Genzlinger, Neil (15 November 2017). "Paul Buckmaster, 71, Arranger on Hits by Bowie and More, Dies". The New York Times. ISSN 0362-4331. Retrieved 1 January 2018.
  7. ^ "Paul Buckmaster - Most Wanted (Soundtrack From The Motion Picture)". Discogs. Retrieved 1 January 2018.
  8. ^ Morgenstein, Mark (16 May 2016). "Drops of Jupiter / Awards". AllMusic. Retrieved 14 March 2010.
  9. ^ "North of a Miracle – Nick Heyward". AllMusic. Retrieved 29 June 2015.

External linksEdit