Del Palmer, the singer-songwriter who first came to fame as Kate Bush's bassist and engineer, has died at the age of 71. Palmer's death was confirmed online by his niece, Debbii Louise Palmer, which was in turn reported by the website KateBushNews.
"We are heartbroken to tell you that Del Palmer passed away at home, yesterday, Friday January 5th, surrounded by his family," wrote the webmasters of KateBushNews.com, citing Palmer's niece's post. "Del had dealt with health issues over the last few years. 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."
Born on November 3, 1952 in Greenwich in London, England, Derek Peter Palmer – or Del to those who knew him (and those who read his album credits) – began his music career in 1967 as a member of the band Cobwebs and Strange. He bounced between bands over the first few years of his career, spending time in Tame before joining Company, which soon changed its name to Conkers, but it was the formation of the KT Bush Band in 1977, featuring the aforementioned Ms. Bush, Palmer, Brian Bath, and Vic King, that changed his career in immeasurable fashion.
Palmer didn’t actually play on Bush’s debut album, The Kick Inside, although he certainly helped road-test a chunk of its material. He did, however, contribute bass to her second album, Lionheart (most notably on the single "Wow"), just as he would contribute in some capacity to every album she would release from then onward, up to and including 2011’s 50 Words for Snow, either as a bassist or as engineer. Indeed, whenever possible, Palmer became Bush's go-to engineer whether it was for her work or someone else's, as evidenced by his engineering credits on the songs Bush did with Midge Ure ("Sister and Brother") and Roy Harper ("Once").
And, yes, Palmer’s musical relationship also became a romantic relationship, one which continued into the early 1990s, but once that chapter of their lives concluded, they successfully maintained both their friendship as well as their working relationship.
Although he spent the majority of his career working with Bush, after her decision to slow her recording career down to a crawl (and later to a grinding halt), Palmer finally began to branch out in 2005, first contributing to a cover of "Goodbye Blue Sky" on Billy Sherwood's Pink Floyd tribute album, Back Against the Wall, then to a version of "Brain Damage" on the 2006 tribute album, Return to the Dark Side of the Moon.
Finally, in 2007, Palmer released his debut solo album, Leap of Faith, which in turn led to two additional LPs, Gift (2010) and Point of Safe Return (2015), but he brought his career full circle in 2018 when he did a series of live dates in England and Ireland with the Kate Bush cover band Cloudbusting to commemorate the 40th anniversary of The Kick Inside.