Nearly three months after David Bowie died from cancer on January 10, an impressive roster of musicians put on two tribute concerts at New York’s Carneige Hall Thursday and Friday nights. Although the first show had been planned since October, interest spiked after Bowie’s unexpected passing and a second date was added. As Time reported, many of the performers took time to share their reflections on Bowie as a musical influence and personal friend.
Among those was Sean Lennon, whose father John Lennon was an idol of Bowie’s. The men were friends and had a working relationship in the 1970s. As Sean recalled, Bowie was an early personal and musical influence. The multi-faceted performer took time to give him reading material when he was a youngster.
“[T]he 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.”
Bowie and Lennon collaborated on the 1975 song “Fame,” one of Bowie’s funk-inspired hits. Bowie continued to perform the song late into his career.
When Bowie died, Yoko Ono said the two artists respected each other and that Bowie was “like family,” noting the notorious couple had a few close friends. She acknowledged how difficult Bowie’s death would be for her son, as Sean was losing a “father figure.” It was Bowie’s own son, Duncan Jones, who confirmed the news of the rock icon’s passing with a tweeted photo of himself as a boy with his dad.
— The Future Heart (@TheFutureHeart) April 3, 2016
At the tribute event, Lennon joined J. Mascis in a performance of Bowie’s “Quicksand.” As The New York Times reported, it was just one of several unique performances of the evening. A heavily bearded Michael Stipe sang “Ashes to Ashes” with soprano Karen Elson. Laurie Anderson performed “Always Crashing in the Same Car” with bursts of electric violin and Rickie Lee Jones gave a rendition of “All the Young Dudes” on acoustic guitar, without inviting the traditional sing-a-long during the song’s chorus.
Another rock star’s son — Jakob Dylan, son of Bob — took the stage to perform “Heroes.” Dylan and his band The Wallflowers once covered the song and released it as a single. The Flaming Lips, Heart’s Ann Wilson, and Cyndi Lauper were also among the very long list of musicians who had one song each to pay tribute to Bowie.
— The Future Heart (@TheFutureHeart) April 2, 2016
The tribute’s house band was led by long-time Bowie collaborator Tony Visconti, who produced some of his legendary albums including his last two, The Next Day and Blackstar. Woody Woodmansey was behind the drum kit. Woodmansey played on Bowie’s records in the early 1970s.
[Photo by Jamie McCarthy/Getty Images]