David Bowie’s Drummer Dennis Davis Has Died
The longtime drummer for the late David Bowie, Dennis Davis, has died from lung cancer, according to Rolling Stone.
The news was first released by David Bowie’s producer, Tony Visconti, on Facebook.
“Dennis Davis has passed away,” Visconti wrote. “He was one of the most creative drummers I have ever worked with. He came into David Bowie’s life when we recorded some extra tracks for ‘Young Americans’ and stayed with us through ‘Scary Monsters’ and beyond. He was a disciplined jazz drummer who tore into Rock with a Jazz sensibility.”
Visconti goes on to explain how Davis did the drums for David Bowie’s song “Black Out,” on the Heroes album. He said Davis had a conga drum included in his drum setup and made it sound like two people were drumming together. Visconti’s post then goes a little strange.
“As an ex member of the US Air Force he told us stories of seeing a crashed UFO first hand by accidentally walking through an unauthorized hanger,” he wrote. “There will never be another drummer, human being and friend like Dennis, a magical man.”
Visconti recalled this memory of Davis in an interview with Uncut Magazine in 1999. He was talking about making the Bowie album Low, when he talked about Davis’ UFO memory.
“Dennis was the life of the party,” he said. “He could do a mime act on the closed-circuit-tv camera and have us in stitches. He claimed he took a short cut through a highly classified hanger and saw a crashed UFO from the catwalk he was on.” Apparently, Davis “stared at it for ages until a guard told him to leave because he wasn’t classified to be there.” Visconti said Davis was told not to ever mention what he saw.
— Stephen (@biblivore) February 11, 2016
Davis was born in Manhattan, according to Pitchfork, and he joined a band called the Clark Terry Big Band in 1967. It wasn’t until 1975 that Davis joined David Bowie to work on the album “Young Americans.”
In 1975, David Bowie had just gone through a major change. He had just abandoned his Ziggy Stardust character, which shocked many fans, and he was dealing with a cocaine problem. Bowie released the album Diamond Dogs in 1974, and many of his fans felt it was too conventional, according to NPR.
Bowie had done an extremely extravagant tour for Diamond Dogs, and many were curious where he was going to go next. Young Americans was another divergence for Bowie, where he explored the R&B and soul genres. Davis’ skilled drumming and familiarity with the genres helped David Bowie create a successful album. The album features the legendary song “Fame,” which was very popular in the United States and abroad.Davis played on seven David Bowie albums overall, and he played with Bowie here and there for most of Bowie’s career. Davis had two sisters and a brother, and his uncle taught him to play drums at an early age. He actually got to study with influential drummers like Max Roach and Elvin Jones, who helped shape his unique and powerful style.
During Davis’ short career in the military, he spent time fighting in the Vietnam War.
Davis didn’t only play with David Bowie. He also played with legendary musicians like Iggy Pop and Stevie Wonder, according to Consequence of Sound. He had a powerful influence on David Bowie’s career while the artist was exploring new areas, and now he has died only months after David Bowie himself.
[Photo by Jack Kay/Getty Images]