On Tuesday 13th October BASCA presented Del Newman with a Gold Badge Award in recognition for his contribution to British Music.

Here, on behalf of BASCA, journalist Mark Sutherland profiles the orchestrator, conductor and producer:

Some songs wouldn’t mean a thing if they didn’t have those strings. And when it comes to orchestral arrangements, Del Newman is the man who made some of the world’s most loved songs truly soar.

Pick any superstar name from the ‘60s, ‘70s or ‘80s and the chances are they had Newman pulling their strings, or driving their arrangements, or producing their albums. Over the years, he has worked with everyone from Paul McCartney to Rod Stewart, Elton John to Cat Stevens and Squeeze to Carly Simon. His work lit up West End musicals and Hollywood movies alike. But he was much more than just the go-to guy for sweeping strings. His arrangements could sprinkle stardust on the most mundane music, but it was when they were allied to A-list songwriting that the real magic happened.

Legendary guitarist Gordon Giltrap – who worked with Newman three times, including on his Troubadour album – praised him as being “full of encouragement, patience and enthusiasm”. “To watch Del Newman at work,” he added, “Is to watch a man at the height of his powers.”

Nowadays, Newman uses those powers more sparingly, having largely stepped back from production and arrangement duties. But he’s scarcely been less active. He still composes, teaches and took the time to write his memoir, A Touch From God: It’s Only Rock & Roll, first published in 2010. Thumbing its pages gives you a front row seat at some of the most important recording sessions of the last 50 years, not to mention a ringside view of some of the associated rock’n’roll antics, be it being harassed by gun-toting soldiers with Cat Stevens (now Yusuf Islam) in Hong Kong or hanging out with Rod Stewart in Los Angeles.

But even such anecdotes must take second place to Newman’s musicality. After all, he’s the man who conducted the orchestra on Wings’ James Bond Theme Live And Let Die and did the orchestral arrangements on Elton John’s Goodbye Yellow Brick Road. The artists’ names might have been the ones up in lights, but without Del Newman, there would have been a little less spark to power them.

So today, Newman acquires some glitter of his own in the form of a well-deserved Gold Badge. And for once with Del Newman, there will be no strings attached.

(c) Mark Sutherland 2015