Bruce Springsteen kicked off the River Tour Saturday night at Pittsburgh, and to open the encore,Springsteen paid tribute to one of the E Street rocker’s earliest supporters, David Bowie, with a cover of “Rebel Rebel.” Before delivering the bittersweet take on the Diamond Dogs classic, Springsteen reminisced about meeting Bowie, who once complemented Springsteen by calling him the only American artist whose music he wanted to cover.
“We’re gonna take a moment and note the passing of our good friend David Bowie,” Springsteen said. “Not enough people know it but he recorded our music way, way, way back in the very beginning, 1973. He rang me up and I visited him down in Philly while he was making the Young Americans record. He covered some of my music, ‘It’s Hard to Be a Saint in the City,’ ‘Growin’ Up,’ and he was a big supporter of ours. I took the Greyhound bus down to Philadelphia, that’s how early on it was. Anyway, we’re thinking of him.”
Neither of Bowie’s Springsteen covers appeared on an album, although “Growin’ Up” popped up on the 1990 Pin-Ups reissue (which featured cover songs of only U.K. artists besides Springsteen and Jacques Brel) and his take on “It’s Hard to Be a Saint in the City” eventually surfaced on the Sound + Vision boxset. Check out Bowiesongs for more details about Bowie’s November 1974 studio session with Springsteen, which unfortunately resulted in no recorded music; however, the two rock legends did discuss UFOs.
“Over here on E Street, we’re feeling the great loss of David Bowie. David was a visionary artist and an early supporter of our music,” Springsteen tweeted after Bowie’s death at 69 on January 10th. “Always changing and ahead of the curve, he was an artist whose excellence you aspired to. He will be sorely missed.”