Paul John Buckmaster (13 June 1946 – 7 November 2017) was a Grammy Award-winning British cellist, arranger, conductor and composer, with a career spanning five decades.

He is best known for his orchestral collaborations with David Bowie, Shawn Phillips, Elton John, Harry Nilsson, The Rolling Stones, Carly Simon, Leonard Cohen, Miles Davis, and the Grateful Dead in the 1970s, followed by his contributions to the recordings of many other artists, including Stevie Nicks, Lionel Richie, Celine Dion, Carrie Underwood, Kenny Rogers, Guns N’ Roses, Taylor Swift, Train, and Heart.

Paul Buckmaster was born in London on 13 June 1946. His father, John Caravoglia Buckmaster, was an English actor and his mother, Ermenegilda (“Gilda”) Maltese, was an Italian concert pianist and graduate of the Naples Conservatory of Music.

At age four, Buckmaster started attending a small private school in London called the London Violoncello School, and continued studying cello under several private teachers until he was ten. In 1957, his mother took him and his two siblings to Naples, where he auditioned with cello professor Willy La Volpe, to be assessed as eligible for a scholarship. From 1958 to 1962 he divided his time between studying music in Naples and working for his GCEs in London, then won a scholarship to study the cello at the Royal Academy of Music, from which he graduated with a performance diploma in 1967.

Buckmaster displayed professional mastery as a cellist. After leading a small orchestral group during a two-month tour with the Bee Gees in 1968, he started his career as an orchestral arranger on various hit songs, including David Bowie’s “Space Oddity” (1969), and contributed orchestral collaborations on a number of early albums by Elton John (1969–72), as well as on the songs “Sway” and “Moonlight Mile” on The Rolling Stones’ album Sticky Fingers (1971). Buckmaster contributed string and horn arrangements to Leonard Cohen’s 1971 album, Songs of Love and Hate. He also helped Miles Davis with the preparation of On the Corner (1972) and wrote the arrangements for the studio sessions, in which he also participated, at Davis’ request, by humming bass lines and rhythms to lead the musicians. These arrangements were often used as a starting point to be transformed until what was being played bore no resemblance to what he had written. This was in keeping with the Stockhausian approach that Buckmaster and Davis had discussed in the weeks leading up to the session.

Buckmaster wrote some instrumental tracks for Harry Nilsson’s film Son of Dracula (1974). He also played with Bowie and his band in the recordings for the original soundtrack to the science fiction film The Man Who Fell to Earth (1976), in which Bowie starred as Thomas Jerome Newton. Buckmaster stated in Mojo magazine, 60 Years of Bowie, that he had played cello on the original soundtrack recordings, on which Carlos Alomar, J. Peter Robinson and others were also included:

—Paul Buckmaster, 60 Years of Bowie (Mojo Classic Magazine – Vol 2 Issue 2)

Later film-director Nicolas Roeg decided not to use the recordings but existing songs as soundtrack for the movie.

In 1995 Buckmaster composed, orchestrated, conducted and produced the original score to Terry Gilliam’s 12 Monkeys, a science fiction movie starring Bruce Willis, Madeleine Stowe and Brad Pitt. He also composed the score for the 1997 film Most Wanted, starring Keenen Ivory Wayans (who also wrote the film) and Jon Voight; its soundtrack was released by Milan Records on 14 October 1997.

Buckmaster won the 2002 Grammy Award for Best Instrumental Arrangement Accompanying Vocalist(s) for Drops of Jupiter.

“Variations on “Friends” Theme” “Variations on Michelle’s Song” “I Mean To Do My Work Today” “Four Moods”