Skip to main content

David Bowie & Elton John composer Paul Buckmaster dead at 71

Paul Buckmaster: 1946-2017
Paul Buckmaster: 1946-2017 (Image credit:

Grammy-winning arranger and composer Paul Buckmaster has died at the age of 71 in Los Angeles.

Buckmaster worked with a wide variety of artists throughout his career, with his first major contribution coming on David Bowie’s Space Oddity in 1969.

He frequently collaborated with Elton John on his early albums and worked on four tracks on Guns N’ Roses’ 2008 comeback album Chinese Democracy.

Buckmaster also composed and arranged string sections on songs by other artists including the Rolling Stones, Stevie Nicks, Bon Jovi, The Darkness, the Grateful Dead and Leonard Cohen.

He also collaborated with Chris Cornell on his final album The Promise and was involved with Heart’s 2016 record Beautiful Broken.

Speaking with Rolling Stone in 1973, Elton John said: “I don’t think Paul has gotten the credit he deserves. He’s influenced so many string writers, especially the Elton John album. Everybody pinches off Paul Buckmaster.

“Like Lennon on Imagine. I’m not saying he pinched it, but he used a lot of strings on How Do You Sleep?. I think nobody really used strings until Buckmaster came along and showed them you can use strings without having them being sugary and awful.”

Buckmaster scooped a Grammy in 2002 for Train’s Drops Of Jupiter.

No cause of death has been revealed.

The Story Behind The Song: Space Oddity by David Bowie

Scott Munro

News editor for Classic Rock, Metal Hammer, Prog and Louder. He’s been at the news desk since 2014 and when not writing, he can be found watching baseball and visiting whisky distilleries.