David Bowie: In Memoriam

American Masters mourns the passing of David Bowie (January 8, 1947 – January 10, 2016), who died in New York City after a long bout with cancer. Legendary as a ground-breaking musician who explored many genres, Bowie also fed his artistry through his diverse interests, including literature, theater, costume and the disruptive influence of the Internet on music.

In this never-before-seen, unedited interview made for Lou Reed: Rock and Roll Heart (1998), Bowie speaks with filmmaker Timothy Greenfield-Sanders about working with the legendary Lou Reed, their respective literary influences, writing lyrics, and what New York City means to Bowie, who grew up in South London.

Reed’s song, “I’m Waiting for the Man,” from the Velvet Underground’s debut album The Velvet Underground & Nico (1967), was a revelation to Bowie that would influence his own music for the next few years. Bowie released his first four albums between 1967 and 1971 and then became the icon of Glam Rock with The Rise and Fall of Ziggy Stardust and the Spiders from Mars (1972). The same year, Bowie co-produced Reed’s album Transformer (1972).

Statement from Filmmaker Timothy Greenfield-Sanders

My first memories of Bowie are from the early 70’s. Everyone was talking about him. Our friend, Pierre LaRoche, created Bowie’s makeup for Aladdin Sane and for Ziggy. We all went to the epic Radio City concert, widely considered one of his best (I agree). My dear friend, the fabulous performer and Warhol star, Tally Brown, was obsessed with Bowie. For years, I got to hear his music sung live, in concert…but by her.

In 1997, I spent an afternoon interviewing Bowie for my American Masters documentary, Lou Reed: Rock and Roll Heart. I was struck by Bowie’s deep affection, admiration and loyalty to Lou — even after so much time. Lou always felt the same way about Bowie. And it’s not hard to understand that bond when you hear their collaborations together. They are some of my very favorites.

The following year, I was supposed to fly to Sundance the next evening for the premiere of Lou and my film. Lou and I were headed to a photo opening together and I was trying to convince him to come to Sundance with me. He was stubbornly refusing to attend.

“A film festival, Timothy?” he balked in that deep Lou voice.

When we saw Bowie later that night, I told him about Lou’s refusal. He shook his head and put his delicate hands on Lou.

“Lou, you must go … this is important!” There were very few people that Lou took counsel from, but I could see from the look on his face that he was considering it.

An hour later, he turned to me and said he had changed his mind. Two nights later, I watched as 850 people stood and gave Lou one of the longest standing ovations I’ve seen at a festival. It was a night to remember.

For me, Lou and Bowie will always be inextricably linked. -TGS