David Bowie Was a Gateway Drug

The Starman Waiting in the Sky is immortalized by few, including The Flaming Lips and Michael Stipe, of the many, many, many he forever influenced in Okayplayer’s fine documentary, a companion to the Carnegie Hall and Radio City memorials marking his surprise passing.

While David Bowie’s two dozen albums of music, videos and performance footage will last forever, his legacy will also live on through the memories of the fans and musicians whose lives were changed by his work. In this Okayplayer TV video, see the likes of Esperanza Spalding and Bilal reveal their favorite songs from Bowie’s catalog, while Laurie Anderson and Blondie’s Deborah Harry share memories of friendship or experiences while on tour. The video also features comments from Cyndi Lauper, Wayne Coyne of The Flaming Lips, and more.

The artists shared their thoughts backstage during rehearsals for the Carnegie Hall and Radio City shows which featured 20 artists performing songs from Bowie’s diverse, shapeshifting discography. Another show was added the following day at Radio City Music Hall. Okayplayer was an exclusive media sponsor for both sold out shows, which were a part of Dorf’s annual “Music Of” series that raises money for music education programs while honoring music luminaries.

The artists had different favorite songs that they loved for different reasons. Eugene Hütz said he spins “Breaking Glass” up to 14 times a night while DJing, while Rickie Lee Jones treasured “Changes” for the way it described love to her while she was a teenager. Bilal and Ann Wilson admired Bowie’s storytelling on “Ziggy Stardust” and “Space Oddity,” respectively.

“I always say those are the songs that are the biggest, iconic hits, are the ones that really take you somewhere,” Wilson said. “A little kid or young kid could just dissolve into them and become Major Tom. And for a young woman, you could still be Major Tom.”

The artists also respected him for his boundless creativity, and the bravery he showed while switching genres and styles. John Darnielle of The Mountain Goats cites Young Americans, Bowie’s 1975 soul album, as a prime example.

“That’s one of the greatest things a rock artist has ever done. Make a soul album, says to his audience and programmers at radio who were so powerful, and say, ‘this is what I’m into now, this is the future,’” Darnielle said, admitting he wouldn’t be brave enough to do the same. “…To just go ahead and do the thing you know is where your heart is, and trust God to let you have something from that.”

Collaborator Tony Visconti said the first time he saw Bowie performing with Iggy Pop, that he didn’t even recognize him visually because of his hair and makeup; he only knew who Bowie was once he recognized his voice.

“He never limited himself. This can be a lesson to everyone. You aren’t your style. You have a true self, but you can make things up, and make them real and express them,” Visconti said. “You’re not your clothes, you’re not your hair. You can do this. He was the person who showed the world how to do that.”