It’s hard to believe that David Bowie has been gone three years today (1/10/2019). Doesn’t seem like it’s been that long, prolly because I still feel like he’s always here. And I know I’m not the only one who feels that way. This morning, I read a lovely column from London’s THE INDEPENDENT – “Why David Bowie will never really die.”
Columnist Lucy Jones said that “of all the musical legends who have died in the last decade, [David] Bowie feels strangely present and alive, thanks to both the internet and the alternative worlds he created which still exist for his fans… In breaking his own ‘suburban curse,’ as he put it, Bowie ushered multiple generations of people to do the same. Often, he wrote about loneliness and isolation, a feeling of falling to Earth and not really knowing what’s going on, and either leaving it there and reveling in nihilism or exploring its treatment: connection… Essentially, his legacy lives on because he changed the way people felt about themselves and the world. And not in a flash-in-a-pan way. When swayed here and there by this and that, I often think of his singularity and force, and ape his spirit to forge ahead. Be more Bowie.” Brilliantly said, and absolutely true. Teenagers across the globe are discovering David Bowie as I type these words, and I think it’s extraordinary.
Speaking of extraordinary, I can think of at least a couple instances in the 80s where David Bowie changed the lives of extraordinary recording artists – and they both have the same Bowie connection.
When I saw Duran Duran and Chic in Brooklyn, New York a few years ago, just three months after the sad passing of David Bowie – one of the amazing stories to come out of that show was the story of how, after the early 80s disco backlash, no one wanted to work with Nile Rodgers (crazy, right?). Nile told everyone in attendance that David Bowie was the first person who wanted to want to work with him in the 80s after the disco backlash. Not only did Nile Rodgers’ incredible producing efforts give David Bowie one of the biggest albums of his career, it also gave him one of his biggest singles ever, if not the biggest. And Nile Rodgers didn’t have to look for work again – the work came to him.
Not only did David Bowie change the artistic life of Nile Rodgers, he did the same for Tina Turner. Before Tina became THE comeback story of the 80s (if not for all-time), Tina was struggling as a solo artist. She released four solo albums and 11 singles between 1974 and 1979, and out of those, only one album and one single charted low on the respective BILLBOARD charts.
Fast forward to 1983, where, at the insistence of David Bowie, Tina was signed to a singles deal with Capitol Records. The first single released under this deal was a gorgeous cover of the Al Green classic, “Let’s Stay Together,” her second collaboration with Sheffiield, England New Wavers Heaven 17.
“Let’s Stay Together” was a huge success across the globe, reaching the Top 10 in Belgium, The Netherlands and New Zealand, and the Top 20 in Finland, Germany and Ireland. Over in the U.K., it reached No. 6 and was certified Silver (Al Green’s original reached No. 7 there). Over here in the U.S., “Let’s Stay Together” gave Tina her first solo Top 40 hit on BILLBOARD Hot 100. It also reached No. 1 on BILLBOARD’s Dance chart and No. 3 on BILLBOARD’s R&B chart.
After the success of “Let’s Stay Together,” Capitol Records had to rethink their contract with Tina, and gave her a three-album deal, asking for an album immediately. That album was PRIVATE DANCER, which reached No. 3 on the BILLBOARD album chart, sold 5 million copies in the U.S. alone and generated three Top 10 hits, including the No. 1 sensation, “What’s Love Got To Do With It.”
After another Top 5 album, 1986’s BREAK EVERY RULE, Tina Turner released her TINA LIVE IN EUROPE album in 1988, consisting of performances between 1985 and 1987, and featuring the likes of Robert Cray, Eric Clapton, Bryan Adams and two songs in 1985 with David Bowie, including “Let’s Dance.” But there was a sweet twist and a play on the song’s title.
Tina and David began their duet with “Let’s Dance,” the 1962 global Top 10 hit by Chris Montez (“Hey baby won’t you take a chance? / Say that you’ll let me have this dance / Well, let’s dance, well, let’s dance…”). Then, about 75 seconds later, they brilliantly moved from that “Let’s Dance” to Bowie’s No. 1 “Let’s Dance” from 1983, switching off on vocals. The crowd went nuts for the collaboration and the medley, but I think Tina and David enjoyed it most of all. You can see it in their faces, it’s beautiful.
I don’t know how this live medley escaped me for so many years, but luckily Maryhope had introduced this to me years ago, and it’s still one of the coolest things I’ve ever heard. Thank you, Maryhope!
This morning, I was nearly in tears upon hearing Peter Gabriel’s stunning orchestral version of “Heroes,” and it was as if I had just heard the news about David’s passing, but as the day progressed, I heard this song in my head, and I knew this was the song I wanted to share and to remember David Bowie today. I’m still smiling from it. You will too… #BowieForever