This week, Entertainment Weekly remembers rock icon and visionary David Bowie, who died Sunday after an 18-month battle with cancer. In the issue, we examine his artistic evolution and enduring legacy and speak to the peers, friends, and colleagues — including film director Christopher Nolan, acclaimed producers Nile Rodgers and Giorgio Moroder, and Blondie frontwoman Debbie Harry — about the public artist and very private man they had the privilege to know. The issue hits stands on Friday.
GALLERY: David Bowie’s Life in Pictures
“I’m not a nostalgic person,” David Bowie told EW in 1997 on the occasion of his 50th birthday, a milestone he celebrated with a tribute concert at New York City’s fabled Madison Square Garden. With those five succinct words, he might as well have been summing up his entire approach to his artistry — one that resulted one of rock and roll’s most important catalogues, an estimated 140 million albums sold worldwide, and a lasting influence that stretched across multiple generations and artistic disciplines, inspiring everyone from Iggy Pop and David Lee Roth to Ricky Gervais and Carrie Brownstein. “My reason for performing is not to please an audience,” Bowie continued. “It’s to present what I believe are exciting new ideas.”
Below, check out the cover and some exclusive tributes to Bowie from those who knew him well.
“The thing that sticks out in my mind from [touring with Bowie and Iggy Pop in 1977] is that they were really just concerned with putting on a great show and not competing with the opening band. This was something that was kind of a new idea for us, but it’s something I really tried to carry through all these years when we put on shows — to really consider putting on the best show possible and give the opening band as much tech support as possible. He led by example.”
“Iggy Pop and David Bowie heard our first record Blondie and asked us to join them on tour in 1977. The fact that he took a backseat to Iggy during that tour was a huge deal because he was a big mega-star then. Bowie was totally gracious. We talked about New Wave a lot; he was fascinated was Television at the time. We talked about Tom Verlaine’s hairdo. He was a little bit making fun of it, but I think he admired it.
“After that tour, we toured with some of our peer bands and there would be frequently more competition. Just being nice to everybody was something I picked up on from Bowie.”
He reached out to me directly and simply asked to do a video with him. I met him and the Record Plant in NYC where he proceeded to play me his new album blasted over the big monitors at the mixing board.
“He seemed very very happy in that time that I knew him, even though [‘Jump They Say’] dealt with a specific and traumatic personal experience. He was perfectionist about his own performance though and came to the monitor to check takes and make small adjustments in his movement. He knew how to perfect and optimize an opportunity to make (yet another) iconic image.”
Prior to doing ‘Let’s Dance,’ I had six flops in a row. No one was interested in working with me, and then I happened to run into David Bowie at an after-hours club. I was with Billy Idol and he went, “Bloody hell, that’s David Bowie!” I walked right over to David and said, “Hi, I’m Nile and you lived in the same building with all my friends.
I’ve always called him the ‘Picasso of rock and roll.’ When we were doing the album Let’s Dance, we had gone off on a mission of listening to new records and one day he came to my apartment and was hiding something behind his back. He says, ‘Nile, darling, I want the album to sound like this, and he whipped out a picture of Little Richard in a red suit getting into a red Cadillac convertible. I knew exactly what he was talking about: This photo looked like if a person in 3050 looked at it, it would be brand new. Let’s Dance took all of 17 days to finish. The easiest record of my life.”
To continue reading more on Bowie, and dive into EW’s Winter TV Preview, pick up the new issue of Entertainment Weekly on newsstands Friday, or subscribe here.