South African-born, English writer, poet, and musician Robin Calvert Was born 9 March 1945 in Pretoria, South Africa. He moved with his parents to England when he was two and attended school in London and Margate. Having finished school he joined The Air Training Corps, where he became a corporal and played the trumpet for the 438 squadron band. He then went on to college in Canterbury. After leaving college, and having been denied his childhood dream of becoming a fighter pilot he slowly acquainted himself with the UK’s bohemian scene. Calvert began his career in earnest by writing poetry.
At the end of the 1960s he moved to London and joined the flourishing ‘psychedelic’ subculture. He soon became one of its most active members; joining, amongst other activities, Frendz, one of the leading underground magazines of the time. During that time he formed the Street Theatre group, Street Dada Nihilismus and acquainted himself with the “New Wave” of Science Fiction writers. Acclaimed author Michael Moorcock, winner of several Science Fiction literary awards and publisher of the influential New Worlds magazine, became a lifelong friend. Calvert’s poems were published in New World and other magazines. Although he was influenced by the New Wave, Calvert developed a distinct style of his own.
His ability to change fluently between poetry, music and theatre allowed him to develop into a multimedia artist. Calvert then became acquainted with Dave Brock, and became the resident poet, lyricist and frontman of Hawkwind, intermittently from 1972–1979. Calvert co-wrote Hawkwind’s hit single “Silver Machine”, which reached No. 3 in the UK singles chart. Although Lemmy sings on the single version, this is an overdub of a live recording taken at the Roundhouse in London, with Calvert on vocals. “They tried everyone else singing it except me”, Lemmy later said. Calvert also directed Hawkwind’s live opus, the Space Ritual Tour.
Calvert suffered from bipolar disorder, which often caused a fractious relationship with his fellow musicians. At one point he was sectioned under the Mental Health Act. Despite his sometimes debilitating mental health, Calvert remained a fiercely creative, driven and multi-talented artist. During periods away from Hawkwind duties, he worked on his solo career; his creative output including albums, stage plays, poetry, and a novel. His first solo album, Captain Lockheed and the Starfighters, was released in 1974. The record is a concept album; an amalgam of music and theatre focused around the Lockheed bribery scandals. In 1975 Calvert won the Capital Radio poetry competition with his poem “Circle Line”. In 1975, musician and producer Brian Eno produced and played on Calvert’s second solo album, Lucky Leif and the Longships, a concept album, which looked at the history of the US and the Vikings, who crossed the Atlantic to reach America before Columbus.
As well as Michael Moorcock and Brian Eno, Calvert’s collaborators included Arthur Brown, Steve Peregrin Took, Jim Capaldi, Steve Pond, Inner City Unit, Vivian Stanshall, Nektar, John Greaves, Adrian Wagner, Amon Düül II and, posthumously, Spirits Burning, Dave Brock, and Krankschaft. Calvert tragically died of a heart attack in 14 August 1988 at the age of 43, in Ramsgate, England and was buried in Minster Cemetery near Margate. His gravestone is engraved with the line “Love’s not Time’s fool”, from William Shakespeare’s Sonnet 116.