100 Greatest Artists

39

David Bowie

Illustration by Jody Hewgill

David Bowie's contribution to rock & roll has been wit and sophistication. He's smart, he's a true musician and he can really sing. He's got such a big range: I like the Ziggy Stardust voice, but he's got a lot of different voices. He's got his crooner voice, when he wants to. And he has a melodic sense that's just well above anyone else in rock & roll. Most people could not sing some of his melodies. He can really go for a high note. Take "Satellite of Love," on my Transformer album. There's a part at the very end where his voice goes all the way up. It's fabulous.

There had been androgyny in rock from Little Richard on up, but David put his own patina on it, to say the least. He bethought hard about that Ziggy character; he'd been studying mime, and he didn't do it just for laughs. He was very aware of stagecraft. He made an entire show out of that character — and then he left it behind. How smart can you get? Can you imagine if he had to keep doing Ziggy? I mean, if you listened to what critics and audiences say, you'd be playing four songs over and over again. David set himself up to do other characters, like the Thin White Duke. And his take on American soul music, on albums like Young Americans, was incredibly good; the original material he wrote was great.

I can't pick a favorite Bowie record. It always depends on my mood — any of the dance records; Ziggy Stardust; I always liked "The Bewlay Brothers," that track on Hunky Dory. And the albums he did with Brian Eno, like Low and "Heroes," are just phenomenal. He's always changing, so you never get tired of what he's doing. And I mean all the way up to his later records: "The Loneliest Guy" on his album Reality is a great song. Yet another one.

David and I are still friends after all these years, amazingly enough. We go to the occasional art show and museum together, and I always like working with him. I really love what David does. I remember seeing him play in New York on the Reality tour a few years back, and it was one of the greatest rock & roll shows I have ever seen. At least as far as white people go. Seriously.

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