Robert Wyatt is a British musician, best known as the drummer and vocalist for the ’60s rock band Soft Machine. He has also played with The Wilde Flowers and Matching Mole (a pun — Soft Machine is “machine molle” in French), in addition to performing as a soloist and in other collaborations.
Wyatt started drinking heavily in the late 1960s while touring in support of The Jimi Hendrix Experience, where he joined other heavy-drinking drummers, such as Mitch Mitchell and Keith Moon, who Wyatt said (in a BBC Radio profile) introduced him to the “trick” of alternating tequila and Southern Comfort shots.
Wyatt’s drinking caught up with him on June 1, 1973, when he fell from a fourth-floor window at a party and became paralyzed from the waist down.
On November 4 of that year, his former bandmates in Soft Machine, along with friends Pink Floyd, held two benefit concerts for Wyatt at London’s Rainbow Theatre. (Listen to Pink Floyd’s “The Great Gig In The Sky” from one of the concerts in the video above.)
Wyatt continued to play drums and percussion after he became paraplegic, but without the use of his feet. He released numerous solo albums and singles, including a cover of “I’m A Believer,” which was produced by Pink Floyd drummer Nick Mason. The song hit No. 29 on the UK charts. Wyatt continues to perform and collaborate, including with David Gilmour, The Animals, Bjork, and Brian Eno, among others.
Here’s Wyatt drumming and singing with Soft Machine in 1969.
And a rare Soft Machine performance of “Pigling Bland” and “Facelift,” on the French TV show L’invite du Dimanche.
Lastly, here’s music from Wyatt’s solo album, Rock Bottom.
Go here for more Sunday Sounds. Plus, a few from Wyatt’s contemporaries: