You'd think a man with so many alter egos would have, well, a pretty big ego. But when he wasn't Ziggy Stardust, Aladdin Sane, or the Thin White Duke, he was David Bowie - a man who by all accounts was gracious, kind, and generous, even when he didn't have to be. Of course, it's hard to separate the man from the myth, especially a myth of Bowie proportions. His fine attention to detail, musical innovation, and daring stage presence cemented him as the glam rock icon, and showed the world you should be proud to let your freak flag fly. Backstage, he had a biting wit and the same alluring charisma.
Over the course of his prolific, five-decade career, Bowie developed a large circle of famous friends and collaborators in the creative world. While an outpouring of tributes came from celebs and fans alike, the stories and memories below are from those who worked with him over the years. They give us a brief glimpse behind the curtain into the kind of guy he truly was, and make us all the more grateful that he graced this planet with his presence.
Vote up the items that make you want to steal time, just for one day, and spend it with Bowie.
- Photo: EMI America1
He Proved That Being Nice Is Rock 'N' Roll
According to Twitter user Philly Byrne, Ranking Roger - vocalist of the English Beat and later of General Public - once detailed a Bowie encounter in an interview. The Beat had supported Bowie at a stadium show in the UK in the mid-1980s. According to Byrne's retelling:
They were in their dressing room before the show, Bowie poked his head around the door and asked if they were all good and ready. Their trombone player, an elderly Jamaican man with no clue who David Bowie was, started complaining that they'd been promised another tray of Red Stripe, his favourite beer.
The band stood dumbstruck as he laid into Bowie about it. Bowie then said "Right," and walked out, leading to an explosion in the room as they shouted at the hapless geezer. A few moments later, Bowie came in, two trays of Red Stripe in his arms, all smiles. Top man.3,64570A Starman?
- Photo: The Snowman / Channel 42
He Brought Home 'The Snowman' Scarf For His Son
In the 1982 version of the classic animated film The Snowman, Bowie makes a brief but memorable appearance to introduce the story, donning the scarf the snowman leaves behind after he melts. In December 2020, Bowie's son, Duncan Zowie Jones, excitedly tweeted that he had found the famous scarf while looking through storage boxes.
One of the film's producers saw the tweet, and shared a warm and fuzzy story of how it ended up there:
The scarf was knitted by the lady in the accounts department of TVC, the production company who made the animation. She came onto the set and presented it to David. When filming was over, David asked very politely if he could keep the scarf to give to his son, Zowie. This was the only fee he charged for the filming and I believe he offered his services for personal reasons. He was charming throughout and totally professional. I am glad that the scarf found its way to the destination he intended: from the dude to another dude.1,90724A Starman?
- Photo: EMI3
He'd Sample Mick Jagger's Style
The two rock icons collaborated just once: for their 1985 cover of "Dancing in the Street" for Live Aid famine relief, recording the track and filming the music video in just one day. But the mold-breaking musicians also shared a close friendship that lasted four decades. Speaking to Rolling Stone, Mick Jagger recalled:
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.1,45421A Starman?
- Photo: Everett Collection / Shutterstock.com4
He Visited Iggy Pop's Parents In Detroit
Bowie first met longtime collaborator Iggy Pop in 1971 and took him under his wing, inviting him on tour with him as a "fly on the wall." As Pop put it, "He resurrected me." Bowie later went on to produce Pop's debut solo album and the pair wrote many songs together. For a time, they lived together in a West Berlin apartment where Pop describes writing "Lust for Life" off the beeps of a television call signal.
Talking to The New York Times, Pop called Bowie the "worldly" one in their relationship, whereas he was "a hick from the sticks at heart." But he says Bowie made a point of visiting Pop's parents, who lived in a trailer in Detroit:
He came to my parents’ trailer, and the neighbors were so frightened of the car and the bodyguard they called the police. My father’s a very wonderful man, and he said, "Thank you for what you’re doing for my son." I thought: Shut up, Dad. You’re making me look uncool.1,30714A Starman?