British guitarist John “Hutch” Hutchinson, a key collaborator in David Bowie’s early career who performed on the original version of “Space Oddity,” died over the weekend after a long illness, according to a report on Bowie’s official website.
The official David Bowie Twitter account confirmed the news: “Our thoughts are with the family and friends of John Hutchinson who passed in hospital yesterday after a long illness. John was described as ‘a semi-retired and little-known jazz guitarist and a veteran of three important David Bowie bands for seven years between 1966 and 1973.’“
Born in Scarborough in Northern England In the early 1960s, “Hutch” worked with bands such as the Tennesseans and the Dave Kirby Five, supporting the likes of Little Richard and Gene Vincent, and also worked as a singer in Sweden for a time. He first connected with Bowie in 1966 when he auditioned for the Buzz, the singer’s backing band at the time, and performed with them for several months. The group split and Bowie pursued a career as a solo artist, releasing his self-titled debut in 1967, before forming a folk trio called Feathers with his girlfriend, Hermione Farthingale (later the subject of Bowie’s song “Letter to Hermione”) and Hutch. The trio performed and recorded several demos during 1968 but splintered after Bowie and Farthingale split up.
Bowie and Hutch decided to continue as a Simon & Garfunkle-style folk duo and performed and recorded several songs together, including an early version of “Space Oddity”; many of these recordings were released in 2018 as part of a deluxe reissue of Bowie’s 1969 album, which was originally his second self-titled album but later reissued as Space Oddity after the song became an unlikely hit.
However, Hutch decided that working as a duo with Bowie would take too much time away from his young family and left. Just months later, Bowie’s solo version of “Space Oddity” became a surprise Top 10 hit in the U.K. and parts of Europe and launched his career; it also became a hit in the U.S. in 1973 upon its reissue.