2020 would have inspired trilogy of Bowie albums, says collaborator

David Bowie’s longest-serving band member has said the turmoil of 2020 would have inspired the late musician to create a trilogy of albums.

Pianist Mike Garson, who played on nine of Bowie’s studio albums from 1973 to the 2000s, suggested he would have found music among the many challenges of the year, including the coronavirus pandemic.

The 75-year-old, originally from New York, has been working 15-hour days to bring more than 30 music acts, including Duran Duran, Adam Lambert and Yungblud, together for an online event marking Bowie’s birthday and the fifth anniversary of his death.

Glastonbury Festival Bowie
David Bowie (Toby Melville/PA)

Bowie, one of the most influential and revered musicians of the 20th century, died on January 10 2016 aged 69 with liver cancer, two days after his birthday.

Speaking about how he would have responded to the events of 2020, Garson told the PA news agency: “I think he would have probably done another trilogy. He would be very upset but he would find his music through it.

“If you look at the words on (the songs) Fantastic Voyage and some of Quicksand, he said it all anyway because it has always been crazy living on this planet and societies just don’t always do the right things.

“I think individuals have it within them to spiritually evolve and make right choices but sometimes groups are irrational and he knew that and he spoke about it and talked about it.

“Sometimes it’s a little dark but I am more of a hopeful person and I believe we will come through this in bigger ways than ever and we will have such great art because so many musicians and singers and painters and photographers and screenplay writers are all at home creating because there is nothing else to do. Here I am, 15 hours a day for three months.”

Originally an avant-garde jazz musician, Garson was recruited by Bowie to join his backing band, The Spiders From Mars, for his breakthrough Ziggy Stardust tour in 1972 and 1973.

He said pop artists Dua Lipa, 25, and Billie Eilish, 19, had both captured the zeitgeist in the same way Bowie had in the ’70s.

He said: “(Bowie) has written music in the ’90s and 2000s that, as far as I am concerned, is as good or better but again, that was a moment in time, just like The Beatles had a moment in time.

“You have a young girl now Dua Lipa – it’s a time. You have Billie Eilish. There are people who hit the place at the right spot.

“Mozart and Bach and Beethoven. Oscar Peterson in jazz and Bill Evans. Marlon Brando at the right time with On The Waterfront and Godfather.

Mike Garson (Fernando Aceves/PA)
Mike Garson (Fernando Aceves/PA)

“That’s something that is bigger than the artist. Certain artists are chosen or exist at the right time or are just channelling that energy.

“It’s hard to explain but I was in awe. I would sneak out into the audience when I wasn’t playing on a song on the Spiders tour and watch the show, because I played on 10 or 11 songs out of 20.

“I would go out and watch this show and go: ‘This guy is good’.”

Garson’s tribute show, called A Bowie Celebration: Just For One Day!, will also feature performances from other Bowie collaborators, including Peter Frampton, David Sanborn and Rick Wakeman.

It will stream globally for 24 hours, beginning on January 9 at 2am in the UK.

Two US dollars per ticket will be donated to Save the Children, a charity supported by Bowie and the beneficiary of his 50th birthday concert held in 1997 at Madison Square Garden.

BBC Radio 4 will also broadcast a series of programmes in 2021 marking the fifth anniversary of Bowie’s death.

The two-hour centrepiece, Bowie: Dancing Out In Space, will broadcast on both BBC Radio 4 and BBC Radio 6 Music on January 10, and feature guests including Tony Visconti, Grayson Perry and Christine And The Queens.