Welsh musical giant David R. Edwards of Datblygu has died
One of the most influential musicians in Welsh music, David R. Edwards, has died.
The frontman of Welsh band Datblygu died at his home in Carmarthen over the weekend, aged 56. He had been struggling with health issues including epilepsy and diabetes.
David was widely recognised to be one of the giants of modern Welsh culture whose unique talent as a poet and a musician was instrumental in creating the rich modern culture we enjoy today in Wales.
In a post on Twitter, David’s longtime Datblygu bandmate and lifelong friend Patricia Morgan said: “It’s a huge pain for me to think that David is no longer with us. He was one of best friends you could ever have. A huge and generous personality; a bear of man. His writing touched people, to give succour, love, anger and humour.”
Cardiff-born Mark Bowen, formerly of Creation Records and co-founder of Wichita Records, said: “It’s hard to put into words the extraordinary effect of hearing Datbylgu for the first time on the John Peel show (inevitably) in the mid eighties.
“To hear Peel play a record in Welsh that stood head and shoulders above anything else he played that night was a stunning moment for a teenager who had never felt “cool” for his nationality before.
“David made me feel like anything was possible and although I never got to meet him I will always owe him so much.”
Gruff Rhys said: “Devastated, Dave was and is a gigantic figure. His contribution to the Welsh language can’t be overestimated and his work with Datblygu serves as a focal point for it’s vibrant counter-culture. I’ve no doubt his influence will grow and his songs will continue to serve as moral compasses and as sources of light to guide us through the darkness down the ages.”
Huw Stephens said: “David’s words in Datblygu have the power to stay with you for life. He was a one off, with no rules or boxes that could keep him in order. That made him challenging, unique and a total anomaly in music. He was fascinated by popular culture, cared about youth, and was a very caring, kind man. I got to know him a little and he loved radio deeply. I will treasure the times we spoke, and his music that had a huge effect on so many.”
Anhrefn’s Rhys Mwyn called David “a visionary who composed masterpieces’, while broadcaster Elis James, a huge Datblygu fan, said: “I hadn’t realised that Datblygu scratched an itch I’d had all my life until I heard their music for the first time as a 16 year old.
“I can honestly say his lyrics made me gasp, they made me marvel – they still do. Dave’s talent (and lest we forget, he was given a fantastic platform by Pat) was otherworldly. His ability to skewer cultural norms was just unsurpassed, and Welsh music has lost a colossal talent. I was listening to Can i Gymry the other day, still laughing out loud at lyrics I first heard 25 years ago. What a legacy.”
A statement issued by Datblygu’s record label Ankst read: “Since the 1980s the existence of Datblygu made it clear that there was much more to Welsh language culture and music than some pale copy of Anglo-American culture.
“As a poet David existed in hostile opposition to the traditional establishment and with his music he was determined to drag the ‘Sgymraeg’ culture and music screaming into the modern age in the 1980s.
“David formed Datblygu as a schoolboy back in 1982 and their most recent album – Cwm Gwagle – was released last Summer in the middle of the pandemic. Between these two dates David’s voice and words have been a huge inspiration on generations of artists and musicians here in Wales and beyond.
“Three of their most important works, the albums – Wyau(1988), Pyst(1990) a Libertino(1994) – are recognised to be the pinnacle of modern Welsh language rock culture. A body of work that crossed cultures, languages and borders and also made John Peel one of their most loyal fans.
“At the height of Cool Cymru in the late nineties David withdrew from performing and releasing music and began a painful period of treatment for mental health problems. At the beginning of the new century it was wonderful to see his health improve and David once again living an independent life in Carmarthen and once again releasing music as Datblygu with his life long friend and musical soul mate Patricia Morgan.
“He also published his autobiography in 2009 – ‘Atgofion Hen Wanc’ – which he described as ‘no fflim fflam, no repetition, no boring bits that will send you to sleep’. Here he could share his feelings about Aberteifi, the love he felt for his parents and his musical heroes like Mark E.Smith, Captain Beefheart, Frank Sinatra and Ryan Davies. It also featured his loathing of authority and the disciplinarian nature of school and work, and also the nature of his life-long love/hate relationship with Wales and the Welsh which fed so much of his creativity.
“In the press release for his last album ‘Cwm Gwagle’ released last year, he again re-iterated the unique nature of the band and his work ‘Datblygu have only one thing in common with other Welsh bands and that is their shared use of the language, nothing else’.
“David was a loving, faithful, creative, kind, funny and wise individual whose loss to us all will be immense. Without David there would not have been any Ankst Records or Cool Cymru and without his friendship, talent and love over the decades life here in Wales would have been so much poorer and duller. His voice and his words will definitely live on and continue to astonish. Our debt to David is enormous and we thank him for sharing his life and talent with us. Our condolences go out to his family and friends as we deal with this heart-breaking news.
“Nos Da Dave x”