In our new David Bowie tribute issue, on sale January 29th, several of Bowie’s peers remember the singer and his musical impact. Here, Mick Jagger reflects on his 40-plus year friendship with the singer.
I can’t remember how I met David — which is weird — but we used to hang out in London a lot in the early days of the Seventies; we were at a lot of parties together. He would come around my house and play me all his music — I remember him playing me different mixes of “Jean Genie,” which was really kind of Stones-y, in a way. That’s what I enjoyed: watching him develop as an artist.
There was always an exchange of information within our friendship. And I suppose there was always an element of competition between us, but it never felt overwhelming. When he’d come over, we’d talk about our work — a new guitarist, a new way of writing, style and photographers. We had a lot in common in wanting to do big things onstage — using interesting designs, narratives, personalities.
He’d always look at my clothes labels. When he would see me, he’d give me a hug, and I could feel him going up behind the collar of my shirt to see what I was wearing. He used to copy me sometimes, but he’d be very honest about it. If he took one of your moves, he’d say, “That’s one of yours — I just tried it.” I didn’t mind sharing things with him, because he would share so much with me — it was a two-way street.
We were very close in the Eighties in New York. We’d hang out a lot and go out to dance clubs. We were very influenced by the New York downtown scene back then. That’s why “Let’s Dance” is my favorite song of his — it reminds me of those times, and it has such a great groove. He had a chameleon-like ability to take on any genre, always with a unique take, musically and lyrically.
Watch our tribute to Bowie’s fashion transformations below:
My favorite memory was the time we did “Dancing in the Street” together. We had to record the song and film the video all in one day. We walked straight from the studio onto the set of the video. At the end of the day, we were saying, “See, it can be done! Why are spending years in the studio?” We enjoyed camping it up. The video is hilarious to watch. It was the only time we really collaborated on anything, which is really stupid when you think about it.
Later on, he bought a house in Mustique, where I have a place, and we used to hang out in the West Indies. David was so relaxed there, and so kind to everyone. He did a lot of work making health care better for local people; I was doing school charity work, and he would come with me there and do story time with the local kids. It was really sweet.
I know David stopped touring around 2004 after having some health problems. After that, he kind of vanished, both from my life and the stage, so to speak, until he came back with an album that was a very interesting piece. It’s really sad when somebody leaves and you haven’t spoken to them for a long while. You wish you’d done this; you wish you’d done that. But that’s what happens. Strange things happen in life.
As told to Patrick Doyle