Tuesday, October 6, 2009

Robert Kirby, 1948-2009. R.I.P.

Musical arranger Robert Kirby has died. I am not clear about the specifics surrounding his death other than he died during while undergoing a surgical procedure on October 3rd. He was 61.

Kirby attended Cambridge in the late 1960s with Nick Drake where they became musical collaborators. While recording his debut album Five Leaves Left in 1968, Drake was unhappy with the heavy orchestral arrangements and suggested that Kirby be brought in despite having no experience in a recording studio. Drake was partial to string quartets and preferred Kirby's sparser arrangements. His producer, Joe Boyd, agreed to Drake's request although he was skeptical.

However, Boyd was quickly won over by Kirby and was hired. Kirby would also arrange strings on Drake's second album Bryter Layter which was released in 1970. However, he did not work on Drake's final studio album Pink Moon which he recorded unaccompanied on acoustic guitar (save for one piano dub on the title track.) Drake died in November 1974 at the age of 26. But Kirby went on to work with the likes of Elton John, Elvis Costello, Iain Matthews and Vashti Bunyan.

Here's my favorite Kirby arrangement. From Five Leaves Left here's "Way To Blue."

No comments: