Alan Hawkshaw: Grange Hill and Countdown composer dies, aged 84

‘One of the most sampled musicians in the world’

Celine Wadhera
Sunday 17 October 2021 15:42
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<p>The Leeds-born musician first entered the industry in the 1960s</p>

The Leeds-born musician first entered the industry in the 1960s

Alan Hawkshaw, the composer responsible for Grange Hill, Countdown and Channel 4 News theme songs has died aged 84.

A statement released by DNA Music Ltd, Mr Hawkshaw’s talent agency, said that the octogenarian had been admitted to hospital earlier this week with pneumonia and passed away in the early hours of Saturday morning.

The talent agency said that Mr Hawkshaw was “one of the most sampled musicians in the world”, noting that his works had been used by a number of hip-hop producers around the world, including by Jay-Z, on his hit song “Pray”.

“Alan would often joke, ‘I’m one of the oldest rap artists in the world!’” the statement read. “He played on a staggering 7,000 prominent artist music sessions … including Olivia Newton-John, Serge Gainsbourg, Tom Jones, Barbara Streisand (and) David Bowie.”

Christiane Hawkshaw, the composer’s wife, said that it was “heartbreaking” to say goodbye to her husband of 53 years, who she described as the love of her life.

“We spent the last few hours gazing at each other with love, holding hands, no need for words,” she said.

“I told him he and I were forever and even though he was unable to speak for the past two months, he managed a few ‘forevers’ and I knew he was at peace,” she added.

In July, Mr Hawkshaw suffered a stroke, his fourth, and had been recovering at his home in Radlett, Hertfordshire, ever since.

According to his website, Mr Hawkshaw wrote music for “more than 35 films and countless television programmes” throughout his career.

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The Leeds-born musician first entered the industry in the 1960s as a member of Emile Ford & The Checkmates, touring alongside the Rolling Stones.

In the 1970s, Mr Hawkshaw worked with Ms Newton-John as a musical director, arranger, and pianist.

In 2004, he set up the Alan Hawkshaw Foundation, in association with the Performing Rights Society, which funds a scholarship programme that provides financial support to young, gifted musicians at the Leeds Conservatoire and the National Film and Television School. To date, over 70 scholars have received funding through the Foundation.

Throughout his career, Mr Hawkshaw received numerous awards, including an Academy Award for Best Arrangement for Ms Newton-John’s song, “I Honestly Love You”.

He also received a Doctorate degree for services to music by Hull University, a Fellowship by Leeds Conservatoire, and an Ivor Novello Award for Best Score.

Adding to the collection of his accolades, earlier this year Mr Hawkshaw was recognised the Queen for his service to the music industry, and awarded the British Empire Medal.

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