Elton John Arranger, Conductor Paul Buckmaster Dead at 71

He was such a huge part of the Elton John sound especially in the early days.

That was him playing cello on the opening, an instrument he excelled at, on “The Greatest Discovery” from Elton’s 1970’s self titled album where he was the arranger. “Your Song” would have been fine as an even acoustic tune but Buckmaster’s strings on that tune added a layer that brought it to the heavens.

His role grew on later the same year with “Tumbleweed Connection” as arranger, conductor in charge of orchestration. Who cold forget his thunderous work on “Burn Down the Mission.”

When Elton John and songwriting partner Bernie Taupin tackled the soundtrack to “Friends” in 1971 Buckmaster was there writing and conducting right beside them on a beautiful symphonic soundtrack that was as classical as anything Elton would ever do.

He was Arranger/Conductor/Musical Director of Elton’s classic “Madman Across the Water” in 1971 another very symphonic project. Buckmaster helped create that melancholy mood of “Tiny Dancer” and “Levon” but he created true symphonic rock on tunes like “Indian Sunset” about a native American warriors last stand and “Rotten Peaches” or the gospel flavored tune of betrayal “All the Nasties.”

Buckmaster was back for one of Elton’s strongest pop albums. In fact every song on this album sounded like a hit. “Don’t Shoot Me I’m Only the Piano Player” from early 1973. Buckmaster was doing what he does best fortifying the story/journey on two tunes “Blues for Baby and Me” one of Elton’s prettiest songs and the thunderous “Have Mercy on the Criminal.”

He also worked with Elton on 1976’s underrated “Blue Moves” and “A Single Man” the following year as well as “Made in England” in 1995 and “Songs from the West Coast” in 2001. Paul Buckmaster gave Elton and Bernie’s music an extra layer especially in the first 5 years. Almost an extra personality which helped seal the deal with a lot of fans.

Even before Elton Buckmaster worked on another classic David Bowie’s “Space Oddity” in 1969. Another ground breaking tune in the history of the Rock era. Then there was his string arrangement on

Harry Nilsson’s “Without You” in 1971. A few months later he was again giving the audience goosebumps on “You’re So Vain,” that mystery tune from Carly Simon. That powerful gorgeous string arrangement at the end giving that song extra wings. He gave Train that same lush blanket on their signature tune “Drops of Jupiter” in 2001

Buckmaster also worked with Miles Davis, Blood, Sweat & Tears, Grateful Dead, Stevie Nicks

Solo Mick Jagger solo and with the Stone on “Sticky Fingers,” Kenny Loggins, Lionel Richie, Celine Dion, Counting Crowes, Collective Soul, Faith Hill & Tim McGraw, Tears for Fears, Carrie Underwood, Bon Jovi, Michael Buble, Guns N’ Roses, Taylor Swift and Heart among other.

Everything he did was beautiful. This man was plugged into something that I’ll never understand. He could make an album track sound like the most important deep cut in the history of Rock and Roll. Paul Buckmaster could make us feel medicinally enhanced just by listening. We lost a great man today. Thanks Paul Buckmaster for the goosebumps and the tears. – by John Beaudin

John Beaudin has been in major market radio (Edmonton, Vancouver & Calgary) for 33 years and a music journalist since 1989. He graduated from Broadcasting school as a news man so he would have the skills to write about the artists that inspired him since he bought his first album, “Madman Across The Water” by Elton John as a teen. In the 80’s Beaudin was the host of the syndicated radio show “The Cross Canada Report” which had two version (Rock and A/C). Beaudin was also asked to be a judge at the Juno Awards (Canada’s answer to the Grammys) Twice. He has anchored every position in radio including morning and afternoon drive and was a Program and Music Director for The Breeze and California 103 in Calgary. He currently hosts the popular Lovesongs at QM-FM in Vancouver and on iHeartRadio.

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