Del Palmer, longtime Kate Bush bassist and engineer, dead at 71

Del Palmer ad Kate Bush embacing
(Image credit: Dave Hogan)

Del Palmer, the bass player and engineer who played can important role in the career of Kate Bush –  as well as being the singer's partner for a number of years – has died at the age of 71. The news was confirmed in a post on the Kate Bush News website.  

"We are heartbroken to tell you that Del Palmer passed away at home, yesterday, Friday January 5th, surrounded by his family," reads the post. "Del had dealt with health issues over the last few years and the announcement came today on social media from his niece, Debbii Louise Palmer on behalf of Del’s family. 

"We don’t need to tell anyone out there the monumental role Del has always played in Kate’s work and music – it’s impossible to quantify. As this news sinks in, we will have more to share with you all about our friend Del, and we will be talking much more about his incredible life and career in the coming days as we remember this remarkable musician and wonderful, irreplaceable man."

Palmer was born in Greenwich in south London in 1952, and joined his first band in the late 1960s alongside one of his best friends, guitarist Brian Bath. The pair would embark on a long and fruitful career in music, first through stints in the bands Cobwebs and Strange, Tame and Company (later Conkers), and then with the KT Bush Band, a group put together for Kate Bush by her brother Paddy. The band played the pub circuit, mixing covers of songs like Brown Sugar, I Heard It Through The Grapevine, Honky Tonk Woman and Come Together with Bush's own material. 

"I knew I had to be involved," Palmer told the Irish Examiner in 2018. "She was going to be huge – that was obvious to me when she was 17 and still a very raw artist. We had a residency in the Rose of Lee pub in East London. The first night there were about 10 people. By the time we finished the residency, there were people out the street who couldn’t get in the door, it was so jammed."

Bush's debut album was completed with established session musicians, but Palmer, who had become romantically involved with the singer, contributed to the follow-up, Lionheart, and to all her subsequent albums apart from the reworked Director's Cut collection. He also programmed drums and played percussion, and was credited as an engineer on Hounds of Love, The Sensual World, The Red Shoes and Aerial. Palmer also played bass on Bush's one-and-only tour, 1979's Tour Of Life. 

"My relationship with Del is very stable," Bush told You Magazine in 1989. "We work together, we live together. It works so well for us. That can be a very intense set-up, but I wouldn't have it any other way. It's all very close and direct. After ten years, maybe we ought to be restless, but we're not. 

"Del and I argue a great deal - over songs. But we consider it healthy. Who wins? Normally, I do. I'm not the shy, retiring, fragile butterfly creature sometimes read about. I'm tough as nails."

Bush and Palmer would eventually separate on amicable terms, and would continue to work together. 

Palmer also played a part in Bush's visual output, appearing as the magician Harry Houdini on the cover of the 1982 album The Dreaming, as as a getaway driver in the Ealing comedy-style spoof video for There Goes a Tenner, a single taken from the same album. 

He released three solo albums: 2007's Leap of Faith, 2010's Gift, and Point of Safe Return in 2015. And he 2018 he toured the UK and Ireland with members of the Kate Bush tribute act Cloudbusting, to celebrate the 40th anniversary of the release of her debut album.

Fraser Lewry

Online Editor at Louder/Classic Rock magazine since 2014. 38 years in music industry, online for 25. Also bylines for: Metal Hammer, Prog Magazine, The Word Magazine, The Guardian, The New Statesman, Saga, Music365. Former Head of Music at Xfm Radio, A&R at Fiction Records, early blogger, ex-roadie, published author. Once appeared in a Cure video dressed as a cowboy, and thinks any situation can be improved by the introduction of cats. Favourite Serbian trumpeter: Dejan Petrović.