Duncan Browne was born on March 25, 1947. The only child of Air Commodore and Mrs. C.D.A. Browne, Duncan initially intended to follow his father into the Royal Air Force. He was turned down on health grounds while still at the Workshop College, where he was a promising schoolboy actor and clarinetist.
A classical guitarist, he attended the London Academy of Music and Dramatic Art for three years, where he studied Composition and Harmony with the legendary Anthony Bowles, who encouraged him towards a career in music. Duncan also had intentions of becoming an actor, but his music career took off in 1967 when he encountered Andrew Loog Oldham of Immediate Records, which led to the release of his first solo album, “Give Me Take You” in 1968. Browne’s sound embraced the most lyrical elements of Paul McCartney, Donovan, and the Moody Blues.
Later, he played a major role in the German feature film, “Zeit fur Traume” (“Time for Dreams”) before his association with Mickie Most, which culminated with the 1973 album on RAK Records, “Duncan Browne”. His British single, “Journey”, with its extraordinary Spanish guitar figure, went top 20 in 1972 and was voted “most unusual single of the year”.
In 1973 he decided to transfer his classical technique to electric guitar, during which period he met Peter Godwin. They worked together for two years in Paris and London on the prototypical songs, sound and style of what was to become “Metro”. Duncan’s only album with Metro was released in 1976 on Logo Records. David Bowie later recorded “Criminal World” for his album “Let’s Dance”.
After leaving Metro, Duncan entered what was to be his most creative period, culminating in two fantastic albums, “The Wild Places” in 1978, and “Streets of Fire” in 1979. The band Duncan assembled for these albums was potent. The rhythm section of Tony Hymas (keyboards), John Giblin (bass), and Simon Phillips (drums) later recorded with Peter Townshend, Jeff Beck, and Jack Bruce.
During the 1980’s, Duncan turned his focus to writing music for the theatre, television and film, most notably working with Sebastion Graham-Jones on “Travelling Man”, the soundtrack from the Granada TV series , released in 1984. Also memorable was “Salva Me” sung by the soprano Isobel Buchanan for BBC’s drama series “Shadow of the Noose”, and most recently, the musical score of three films for BBC’s “The Essential Guide to the History of Europe”.
For the BBC’s World Service and Radio 4, frequently working with the producer and arranger Nick Magnus, he composed and recorded themes for “Newshour, Mediawatch, Network UK”, and much else. He wrote music for the Royal National Theatre and was musical director and co-lyricist for “Brel”, starring Sian Phillips at the Donmar Warehouse Theatre.
In the 1990’s, battling cancer, Duncan had begun work on his first album of new songs in well over a decade. But tragically, Duncan would not see the completion of “Songs of Love and War”, succumbing to cancer in May, 1993.
The following appeared in Melody Maker in June of 1993:
In another tragedy, DUNCAN BROWNE died on May 28, after a long battle with cancer. He was 46. The singer-songwriter is best remembered for his 1972 hit single, ”Journey”, and for David Bowie’s cover of his ”Criminal World”, which appeared on Bowie’s 1983 album, ”Let’s Dance”.
Following his solo success, Browne achieved cult status in the mid-Seventies as part of glam-pop duo, Metro. In 1984, he enjoyed another brush with the singles chart via his minor hit, ”Theme From The Traveling Man”. He leaves a wife and an eight-year-old son.
This is an excerpt from the obituary that appeared in The Times, Thursday June 24, 1993:
Duncan Browne, composer and musician, died of cancer on May 28, aged 46.
…..Largely self-taught, his musical horizons and knowledge were, respectively, limitless and encyclopedic. He possessed, invaluable, a remarkable gift for judging the contributive value of music to drama and documentary.
He is survived by his wife Lin and one son
The task of completing the album fell to Nick Magnus, who with the help of Colin Blunstone and Sebastion Graham-Jones, put the finishing touches on a haunting and beautiful collection of songs. The album was released on Nic Potter’s Zomart label in 1995.
Duncan Browne’s songs have been covered by Patti Smith, Ian Matthews, Barry Manilow, Colin Blunstone, John English, and particularly successfully by David Bowie.
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