Robert Wyatt has been recognised as a prog-rock drummer, jazz composer, avant-garde cornet player, artist and activist in a wheelchair. But, above all else, he has been known by one of the most instantly recognisable and distinctive voices of the last fifty years.
Forever associated with Shipbuilding, Elvis Costello's song written in reaction to the Falklands War, Wyatt's voice and the causes he gives voice to are intricately entwined.
This intimate radio portrait, in his own words, traces Wyatt's journey from the psychedelic excesses of Soft Machine (appearing both with Jimi Hendrix and at the BBC Proms), through the life-changing accident that has confined him to a wheelchair for almost forty years, to recent celebrated musical projects that are reaching new audiences.
Produced by Alan Hall.
A Falling Tree production for BBC Radio 4.
Piers Plowright's Pick
Legendary radio maker Piers Plowright recommends The Voices of Robert Wyatt:
"A fascinatingly honest self portrait of the English musician and founding member of Soft Machine.
"Radio at its most intimate – as if we are taking tea (which at one point we are) with the storyteller – Wyatt himself. The story flows through his life and work, taking in artistic and musical influences, all told in a deceptively casual way, making light of the triumphs and disasters. In the background we sense the presence of Wyatt’s artist wife, Alfie, and her importance to him, though she never says a word. "Life," says Wyatt near the end of the programme, "is liking climbing a mountain and looking down; as we climb, the village from which we started gets smaller as the landscape gets bigger.
"This programme makes me think of a great virtue in any good radio documentary: simplicity."