It was five years ago Sunday (January 10th, 2016) that the world lost David Bowie, just two days after his 69th birthday — with today (January 8th) marking what would have been his 74th. Bowie's death followed a private 18-month battle with cancer, and according to reports from insiders in the Bowie camp, the music legend died from liver cancer, after suffering from a handful heart attacks in recent years. Bowie was survived by his wife of 23 years, supermodel Iman, his son, movie director Duncan Jones, and his daughter with Iman, Alexandria.
A David Bowie tribute concert is set to stream tonight (Friday, January 8th) at at 9 p.m. ET. The concert is headed up by his Spiders From Mars keyboardist Mike Garson and will feature contributions from Def Leppard's Joe Elliott, Peter Frampton, Duran Duran, Trent Reznor, William Corgan, Perry Farrell, Bush's Gavin Rossdale, the Cult's Ian Astbury, Lzzy Hale, Macy Gray, Rolling Stones sideman Bernard Fowler, Living Color's Corey Glover, Boy George, Taylor Momsen, Ricky Gervais, YUNGBLUD, Andra Day, Adam Lambert, Gary Oldman — and the Ground Control supergroup featuring Dave Navarro, Corey Taylor, Foo Fighters' Taylor Hawkins and Jane's Addiction's Chris Chaney
In addition to Garson and Bowie’s long-time collaborator and producer Tony Visconti, musicians taking part who had recorded and performed with Bowie include guitarists Earl Slick, Carlos Alomar, Gail Ann Dorsey, Sterling Campbell, Gerry Leonard, Catherine Russell, Zack Alford, Kevin Armstrong, Alan Childs, Omar Hakim, Carmine Rojas, and Charlie Sexton, among others.
Mike Garson, who performed over 1,000 shows with Bowie — as well as his first and last U.S. appearances, said in a statement:
What we’re planning is an amazing show with the most talented musicians from every period of David’s career, as well as phenomenal artists from many different genres. We’ll hear different interpretations of David’s songs; some with totally new arrangements that have never been heard before.
In celebration of what would have been David Bowie's 74th birthday today, two previously unreleased cover versions are set for single release. The birthday offering includes a version of John Lennon‘s 1970 solo classic, “Mother,” which Bowie tracked in 1997 and 1998 for a Lennon tribute collection that fell through, and Bob Dylan's 1997 Time Out Of Mind classic, “Tryin' To Get To Heaven,” which Bowie recorded in February 1998 during the mixing sessions for the LiveAndWell.com album.
The seven-inch single is limited to 8,147 numbered copies, 1,000 of which will be on cream colored vinyl available only from the official David Bowie store and Warner Music’s Dig! store (the remainder will be black). Both tracks will be available to stream and download.
Although tributes were literally non-stop in the days and weeks following Bowie's death, perhaps the most touching tribute was in July 2016 when Bowie's 1974 classic “Rebel Rebel” took on Herculean proportions when it was played in unison by over 1,000 musicians. A professionally filmed clip of the volunteer-based rock band dubbed Rockin' 1000 performed the song in Cesena, Italy's Orogel Stadium.
Long-time fan, and Def Leppard frontman, Joe Elliott, who'll perform in tonight's tribute show, told us David Bowie's 1980 Scary Monsters (And Super Creeps) album inspired most of the music that came out of Britain throughout the remainder of the decade: “When you take the Scary Monsters period, which was probably Bowie's' last big artistic statement, because with Let's Dance, I think it just became a commercial — I wouldn't say 'sell out' — but it was a commercial success he never achieved in the past. But it was more based on 'normal'; all of a sudden, Bowie's wearing a tie and a suit and bleachin' his hair blonde and having it short. But Scary Monsters, with things like 'Ashes To Ashes' — you can see where Duran Duran got a lot of their stuff from, and even Spandau Ballet, who would come later on.”
In 1983, David Bowie shed light on how and why the character of “Ziggy Stardust” came to exist: “I think I was quite happy to buy into the idea of reinvention, up until the beginning of the '80s, really. When I was a teenager, I had it in my mind that I would be a creator of musicals — I sincerely wanted to write musicals for the West End and for Broadway, whatever. I didn't see much further than that — as a writer. And I really had the idea in my head that people would do my songs. And I was not a natural performer; I didn't feel at ease onstage — ever. And I had created this one character — 'Ziggy Stardust' — that it seemed that I would be the one who played him, because nobody else was doing my songs and the chance of my getting a musical mounted were very slim, and so, I became 'Ziggy Stardust' for that period.”
David Bowie explained that his late-1970's work with producer Brian Eno forever shaped the way he thought about songs and music: “The whole idea of using a recording studio as an instrument, of not necessarily thinking that you have to be prepared totally before you go in; that accidents will happen and sometimes planned accidents work our really well. If there's a bad note, you can layer that note several times with other instruments and suddenly that bad note sounds like an extraordinary piece of arrangement.”
Although David Bowie will always be best remembered for pushing the creative envelope, until the end he tried to bear witness and give a voice to the plight of the world he saw around him: “Some kind of statement or indictment of an uncaring society, or particularly the response to what's happening in terms of the homeless, people who are totally uncared for in terms of education or being fed properly, or housed properly. There's such a diversity of political stance, where the high powered authority seem to be far more concerned with their relations with Russia or the Middle East and the whole idea of what's happening at home, on the streets with the indigenous people seems to be swept under the carpet.”
In 2003, Bowie spoke about mortality during a rare TV appearance on Britain's Parkinson talk show: (David Bowie): “I had this poetic, romantic, kind of juvenile idea that I would be dead by 30. 'Cause that's — all artists think: 'I'll be dead by 30! Y'know, I'm going to get TB and die.' (Laughs) But you don't, y'know, you get past it and then suddenly, you're 30 and you're 40 and then you're 50 and 57, and then all that. And it's a new land, y'know?” (Parkinson): 'Sure.” (Bowie): “I'm a pioneer — me and my kind are just sort of scraping the edge of what this think is about, being a rock and roller at the age of 57. But my revenge is all these bands that are below us, they've got to do this — so, they kind of say: 'Yeah, they're like, really old' — but secretly they're thinking, 'I better watch how he does it, 'cause I'm gonna get there soon (laughter).'”