David Palmer is, along with Ian McDonald of King Crimson and Foreigner, a member of that small fraternity of English rock musicians who learned the rudiments of his art as a member of the armed forces. While serving in a cavalry regiment, he took up the clarinet and later attended the Royal Military School of Music. After returning to civilian life, he studied composition at the Royal Academy of Music, winning the Eric Coates Prize -- named for the renowned composer of "light" classics such as the "Knightsbridge March" -- for composing in his senior year. He made his debut as an arranger and conductor in popular recording in 1967 with his work on the orchestral accompaniment for the Bert Jansch album Nicola. In 1968, he was hired by producer Terry Ellis to write the horn and string parts for the song "Move on Alone" by Jethro Tull for what would become their first album, This Was. In those days, there were relatively few trained arrangers or conductors -- other than those directly employed by the record labels, such as producer George Martin -- willing to work with hard rock bands and treat the work seriously, and Palmer distinguished himself as one of the more inspired of them. The results on that one song impressed Ellis and the band sufficiently so that Palmer was hired again, to write the string arrangement for "A Christmas Song", which appeared on an EP in England and was later included on the double-album anthology Living in the Past. He also wrote the gorgeous string orchestra arrangement for "Reasons for Waiting" on Stand Up (1969), which showed a more lyrical and richly melodic side to the group's music than had previously been heard, and pointed the way toward the larger conceptual pieces in their future. By the time of Aqualung in 1971, his arrangements were nearly as prominent as the keyboard playing of John Evan, and Palmer had effectively become the sixth member of Tull, in fact if not contractually. He was kept busy on the group's two progressive rock epics, Thick as a Brick (1972) and A Passion Play (1973), and the somewhat more modestly proportioned War Child (1974), and even played with them on-stage during their 1975 tour. He was a part of the group for the next five years, through Stormwatch.
In 1980, Palmer left Jethro Tull and, along with Evan and drummer Barriemore Barlow, tried forming a group called Tallis. He wasn't totally alienated from Tull-founder Ian Anderson or his orbit, working with the singer/flautist/composer on a German television appearance in connection with Anderson's first solo album. And it was Jethro Tull that led Palmer to his own recording career, when he was engaged in the '80s to arrange and conduct an orchestral tribute album to the band entitled A Classic Case, which became the first in a series of such albums devoted to the work of Yes, Genesis, et al. He also kept busy writing, arranging, and conducting music for movies and television in the years after leaving Tull. Palmer's later orchestral tribute albums have included rearrangements and recordings of the music of the Beatles and Queen, and an album of Norwegian pop music standards arranged for orchestra. Palmer receded from the rock press in the '70s through the heady days of Tull's chart dominance until 2003, when it was announced that he'd undergone a sex-change operation and would hereafter be known as Dee Palmer. ~ Bruce Eder, Rovi