A solo performer and the space rock band Hawkwind's "resident poet," Robert Calvert was born in Pretoria, South Africa in 1945. As an infant, he and his family relocated to London, where he grew up to first begin working as a building surveyor; however, his long-held literary aspirations drew him into the late-'60s counterculture movement, and soon he was a regular contributor to the underground magazines of the era. Upon meeting Hawkwind guitarist Dave Brock, Calvert became a satellite member of the group, infrequently appearing during their live sets to recite poems and dramatic monologues; in 1972, he wrote their massive hit "Silver Machine," although his original vocals were later overdubbed by bassist (and future Motörhead kingpin) Lemmy Kilmister. Calvert's vocal did remain intact on the follow-up Hawkwind single, "Urban Guerrilla," a portrait of a terrorist which was quickly deleted in the wake of an IRA bombing in London. He and the group subsequently toured, yielding a 1973 concert set, Space Ritual Alive, which featured such Calvert contributions as "The Awakening," "10 Seconds of Forever," and "Welcome to the Future." Shortly after the record's release, however, he left the band to mount a solo career, bowing in 1974 with the concept album Captain Lockheed & the Starfighters, recorded with the aid of friends including Brian Eno, Arthur Brown, Vivian Stanshall, and Jim Capaldi. Eno subsequently produced 1975's Lucky Leif & the Longships, but the next year, Calvert turned to the theater, penning The Stars That Play with Laughing Sam's Dice, a drama based on the life of Jimi Hendrix.
In 1977, Calvert rejoined Hawkwind for the LP Quark, Strangeness & Charm; when the group went on hiatus not long after, he and Brock formed the Hawklords, which recorded one album, 1978's 25 Years On, before swiftly disbanding. Calvert then returned to his solo career, and also began working on Hype, a novel about the music industry; issued in 1982, the book also spawned a spinoff LP, titled Hype as well. His subsequent work moved more toward electronics and minimalism, culminating in 1984's Freq and 1986's Test-Tube Conceived; he died of a heart attack on August 14, 1988, with a Hawkwind benefit performance in honor of his widow and son following a few months later. ~ Jason Ankeny