With the tragic news of the death of David R Edwards, one half of legendary alternative Welsh-language band Datblygu, his friend, Simon Tucker, one of the last people to interview David, writes a heartfelt tribute.
“Though lovers be lost, love shall not; And death shall have no dominion”
Tuesday the 22nd June. The news started filtering through via the online communications of social media that Wales would be saying farewell to the lyrical and poetic genius Mr David R Edwards, frontman and founder member of seminal post-punk outfit Datblygu. It was announced that David had died in Carmarthen at the age of 56 and that he had been in ill health for a while suffering from epilepsy and diabetes. Tributes started almost instantly from the fan to the celebrity with the likes of Gruff Rhys, David Wrench and Tim Burgess all posting their feelings for all to read. The hardest tributes to read came from Emyr Glyn Williams, head of Datblygu’s label Ankst, and from Patricia Morgan who was the long-time bandmate and friend of David. Pat spoke about David being a “bear of a man” and it was this phrase that resonates, for David was exactly that. David was a man whose tall frame matched his large intellect and his even bigger heart. He cast a large shadow.
Within the framework of an experimental pop band, David eloquently eviscerated various establishments whether that be the school system, the meat industry, or Welsh culture itself with the last one always done seemingly from an angle of a person who knew that as a culture and as a nation we could and should be doing better. David sang in his mother tongue, yet was unafraid to justifiably criticise many of the elements that surrounded any “scene” that grew around the language whilst at the same time doing more than most to take the language out of its borders and helping it spread across the globe. David would continue to hone his themes via Datblygu and his English language poetry right until the end. As final statements go, Datblygu’s Cwm Gwagle is a stunning final bow one worthy of one of David’s musical heroes, Leonard Cohen.
There may be a rush to idolise certain aspects of David’s health and lifestyle and place him under the “tortured artist” banner but this would be doing his legacy a huge disservice because what the main narrative thread of David’s life is love. Love for music. For Sinatra, The Fall, Lennon, Beefheart, Cohen and Lydon. Love for the written word. David was a keen writer of letters and his flat would always contain pads of paper with lyric/poem ideas. Words meant everything to him… and he was exceptional with them. Love for younger Welsh bands coming through with him voicing his support for artists such as Gwenno, Y Ffug and Adwaith. Love for red wine and cigarettes. Love for John Peel. Love for Datblygu as a living thing. David was so proud of the work that he, Pat and T. Wyn Davies had created over the years and was always humble when a fan would discuss what their music and his words meant to him. I remember when David and Pat came to my house to hear the test pressing of their return album Porwr Trallod. It was a wonderful experience to see the pair of them so happy with their art and what they had achieved.
David’s legacy is one of a fearless artist who slashed and burned targets one minute then threw his arms around the world the next. It is a roadmap for anybody wanting to pursue a life of words as his gifts helped give people courage and told you you should never be afraid to express yourself even if that includes staring in the mirror and revealing your own weaknesses. David’s legacy is one of truth, friendship and love.
David’s words will remain a guide for the rest of days and his light shall never be diminished.
Simon Tucker is a writer, radio presenter, and friend to David R Edwards.