Published Oct 08, 2009Robert Kirby, the British string arranger most famous for working on Nick Drake's Five Leaves Left and Bryter Layter, has died. According to reports, Kirby died of natural causes in a west London hospital on October 3, following a short illness. He was 61.
Born in 1948, Kirby befriended Drake at Cambridge University in the '60s and was brought on to arrange the strings on Five Leaves Left after Drake had a fallout with a much more well-known arranger.
"[Nick Drake] said he'd get this friend at Cambridge, Robert Kirby; he thought would be much more sympathetic to what he was doing," Five Leaves Left sound engineer John Wood was once quoted as saying. "Robert had never before done anything in his life in a recording studio. But two weeks later, we booked him together with a bunch of musicians - a smaller bunch than the first time, I remember... We were flabbergasted. He was so good."
Kirby went on to arrange the strings on Drake's 1970 album, Bryter Layter, kicking off a career that saw him work on more than 40 albums in that decade alone, including Vashti Bunyan's Just Another Diamond Day, John Cale's Helen of Troy and Elton John's Madness Across the Water.
Kirby also did a stint in the Strawbs in the mid-'70s as the band's keyboardist before going on the work with the likes of Elvis Costello and Nick Lowe in the '80s.
In more recent years, Kirby did the string arrangements on several tracks on Paul Weller's 2000 album, Heliocentric, as well as those on Linda Thompson's 2007 outing, Versatile Heart, and Vashti Bunyan's comeback effort, Lookaftering.
Thanks to NME for the tip.