Some of the music industry's biggest stars gathered Friday night to remember the late David Bowie with a tribute concert at Radio City Music Hall in New York City.
The concert, named The Music of David Bowie, was originally planned as part of an annual tribute series to different songwriters as a means to benefit music education for children. Planned since October of last year and approved by Bowie, the concert was announced shortly just before the news of Bowie's death in January. The event immediately took on a new meaning as a tribute show, instantly selling out, adding a second Radio City concert, and offering fans the option of watching the proceedings online.
Bowie's universal acclaim was reflected in the show's diverse lineup, which included former R.E.M. frontman Michael Stipe (his reverent striped down version of "Ashes to Ashes" with singer/model Karen Elson was a highlight of the night), along with Blondie, Sean Lennon, Pixies, and the Flaming Lips. Appropriately, the show closed with an all-star group singalong of "Space Oddity," led by Toronto's Choir! Choir! Choir! Backstage.
Below, read tributes from some of the musicians that performed on how David Bowie impacted them.
The Flaming Lips' Wayne Coyne:
Mostly since his death, you see these things like "David Bowie came from space!" or whatever, I think they're funny and people mean well, but to me it was like when he died, it seemed like he was already in the realm of becoming a mythical figure, he's Santa Claus, he's Jesus Christ, he's in that realm already, which I think isn't as wicked as remembering.
When he died, along like when John Lennon died, there's a brief moment where you remember "Oh, they were men." He was really just a dude, he wasn't a magical alien from outer space, which sounds great, but the idea that he was a man and did this stuff, to me, is more powerful than ever being mythological.
R.E.M.'s Michael Stipe:
Instrumental, absolutely complete. Those are three very good words.
I mean the truth is, he's one of the principle songwriters that influenced me and I'm always ripping him off, but the real relationship I had with him was personal, because he was my parents' friend. When I moved to Switzerland for boarding school, he would pick me up from school and take me to museums and tell me about Kokoschka and painters and books. He gave me the Foundation trilogy by Isaac Asimov when I was a kid."
I'm really sad about him passing, as one would be about an uncle or something, but then on top of it there's also the music influence obviously. But it's weird, like with my dad, I think of him as the guy who was in my house, but also this epic legendary musician that influenced me as a musician. It's almost separate things, because I have a lot of memories of David just hanging out, and those are even more important to me.
Blondie's Debbie Harry:
[His diversity] was an inspiration. "Heroes" is a song we played for many years, we actually recorded it with Robert Fripp, it's a song we know and love and seemed the right thing to do tonight.
Blondie's Chris Stein:
I always think "Hang On to Yourself" is a seminal punk song, I mean it's kind of the roots of the Ramones. I was exposed to him pretty early on. I was at [Bowie's Carnegie Hall show] between Ziggy Stardust and Aladdin Sane, early on before I met Debbie [Harry]. The last time I saw him was in the summer of 2013, it was ironic because we were talking about Lou [Reed], because he was not doing well and just had a liver transplant, and we were saying that we hoped he was ok. He was always a gentleman.
Blondie's Clem Burke:
I was at both Aladdin Sane shows here in 1973. I also saw the Spiders from Mars in 1972 at Carnegie Hall and interestingly enough, it turns out Debbie [Harry] was at that show, Chris [Stein] was at that show and Joey Ramone was at the show, all unbeknownst to each other, and also I remember Andy [Warhol] was there, you could see Andy when you walked in. I was a teenager and they did the Ziggy Stardust album.
"David Bowie changed my life, he's a major influence on me. The first national tour we ever did in 1977 was The Idiot tour with Iggy Pop, who had David playing keyboards.
Pixies' Black Francis:
He more or less occupies the post-Elvis Gods [realm] with the Who and the Beatles and the Kinks and Elton John, he's part of that. There aren't really any solo artists of his stature, other than Dylan or Neil Young, that's about it.
We got to work with him a couple of times. I guess my general impression is that he was a bit of a music geek, a guy who liked a lot of records. He didn't necessarily have to like our band, but he did like our band. It didn't surprise me that he liked a wide variety of music in a geeky, music nerd kind of way.
TV on the Radio's Kyp Malone:
David Bowie was and remains to be super inspiring to me as an artist. He was constantly changing his persona and often times you're told in the industry that you need to brand yourself, but he was the king of not branding himself and switching it up as much as possible. To an amazing effect, he personally hyped my band at a time that was really helpful for us and sang on a song that I wrote, which gave me a lot of confidence as a lyricist and songwriter.
I was listening to lyrics of records that I heard for many years, listening with a different ear since his passing and trying to get my kid to listen to "Oh! You Pretty Things" and Hunky Dory in its entity. I feel like my kid is fifteen and it's a really crucial moment in development. [Bowie's] lyrics on that record, I wish that record had been introduced to me then in my life because it's an array of incredible advice for teenagers...to encourage people to be themselves and embrace their individuality.