David Bowie's Close Collaborators and Friends Reveal Funny, Poignant Stories About the Rock Icon: 'We Have Lost One of Our Princes'
Since David Bowie passed away Jan. 10, tributes, testimonials, and first-hand accounts of his greatness have poured in about the music icon. Bowie touched many over his life, giving us plenty of voices across music, film, fashion, and more to join the chorus.
In Billboard's new issue, we pay tribute to the life and legacy of the inimitable musician. And we've spoken to those close to him -- early collaborators, friends from his wild '70s life, musicians who worked with him for decades -- about the impact he had on them both personally and professionally. It's a glimpse into the world of an unflinchingly independent artist, a good friend and a sensitive soul who overcame his own struggles. Read on for poignant recollections from those who knew him well at different phases of his storied life. "We have lost one of our princes -- it might be that he was just lost from space, but wherever he came from, he’s gone back, and it’s all our losses," says longtime guitarist Carlos Alomar.
More From Billboard's David Bowie Tribute: Bowie Changing Rock'n'Roll | Bowie’s Sexuality | His Many Muses | His Passion for Soul and R&B | 25 Poignant Moments From His Life and Career | His Pioneering Use of TV | His Arresting Presence on Film | His Rebellious Style
Toni Basil, choreographer on Bowie's 1974 and 1987 tours
"Nothing was the same for me after working with him -- I was on the cover of a magazine, I was getting calls from all kinds of people to work with them. With him, it was like everything I had done my entire career came to fruition.
During rehearsals for the  tour, we’d just finished [choreographing] the song 'Diamond Dogs,' where he wrapped up his backing singers in these long leashes. Next up: “What do we do for ‘Panic in Detroit’?" We’re in a rehearsal studio by ourselves, and I saw this light bulb go off in his head. He had been working out with his trainer earlier. He got up; he took two chairs that were in the studio and tied the leashes around the chairs as if it was a boxing ring. He put the boxing gloves on that he had from his trainer, sang 'Panic in the Detroit' from beginning to end, making boxing moves, and knocked himself out at the end. “Okay, that one’s done. Next number!” He made it all up in that moment." -- As told to Jem Aswad
Glenn Hughes, former Deep Purple bassist/vocalist
"We met at the Beverly Wilshire in July or August 1974, when I was in Deep Purple. I’d just gotten back to my room from the studio at around 11 one night and I got a call from Angie [Bowie], who I had never met, saying David would would like to meet me. He had seen me on TV on the [broadcast of the] California Jam [festival, where Deep Purple performed]. So I went up to his room, there were a lot of people there -- Moony [Who drummer Keith Moon] was there, Woody [Rolling Stones guitarist Ron Wood] was there, and we sort of become inseparable. He was stepping into the Young Americans thing -- blue-eyed soul -- and I was very heavily into it, even though I dressed in leather. We stayed up all night talking about black music from Detroit and Memphis and where he was looking to go musically.
In 1975, he wanted to come out to L.A. and asked if he could stay with me. I was in Europe and when I got home he was writing Station to Station in my house. He was using his cut-up method, moving lines [of lyrics on paper] around -- he worked very spontaneously, he had no fear of changing things. And Station was more of a dangerous record than Young Americans. He’d just made The Man Who Fell To Earth, so he was in a different head space. It still had a phenomenal groove, but the lyrics were out of this world.
I think [his time in LA] was called “the dark year.” We were both struck by addiction. He was extremely paranoid and fragile and down to like 100 pounds. Isolation was his biggest fear. Later on, he felt really uncomfortable about his behavior in L.A. It was a period for him that’d he’d rather not have done. I went through treatment 25 years ago, and I think he got sober before I did. But I’ve seen him sing great vocals and direct and produce music while he was high as a kite.
I’m completely devastated that we’ve lost him. He was very generous to me, very loving, very giving, very funny. I’m glad I was there for him at a time where he was in need of some support. I shall miss him." -- As told to Jem Aswad
Nicky Graham, keyboardist on Bowie’s 1972 Ziggy Stardust U.K. tour
"David had just caught the first wave of success. It was thundering down towards us, and we were riding it like surfers. Everywhere we went got bigger and better and wilder.
When we went to Manchester to do a gig, we stayed at a hotel by Manchester Airport, and David flew to New York to see Elvis. We just sat around the hotel, and he came back two days later having been onstage with Elvis at Madison Square Garden.
When it came to playing “Suffragette City” live we had RCA print us these photographs of the Hunky Dory [album] sleeve. The road crew would go around the [balconies] and at the point where we stopped playing and David went, “Wham bam thank you ma’am,” they would throw handfuls of these 8x10 photographs into the air.
It was a brilliant tour to be on, although we never imagined David to be a major star. He was just the singer in the band. He would eat with us. He would be in the bar afterwards with us, and he would travel with us. He didn’t go in a limo while the Spiders went in a bus. We were all in it together. I think David was probably more shocked than anyone about how successful it was becoming. Don't forget he’d struggled for years to make it. He’d gone through this folkie period where he’d worn enormous baggy trousers, beautiful long hair and looked like a woman. But then suddenly it just went potty." -- As told to Richard Smirke
Carlos Alomar, guitarist/Bowie collaborator for more than 40 years
"He fooled us in the end, didn’t he? Therein lies that mystery that is David Bowie. We’re left to negotiate his death. Are Blackstar’s lyrics encrypted? Well, dammit, every Bowie song is encrypted. It’s a weird place that we find ourselves which is exactly the legacy of David Bowie. We have lost one of our princes -- it might be that he was just lost from space, but wherever he came from, he’s gone back, and it’s all our losses." -- As told to Camille Dodero
"I lived in Los Angeles in the early 1990s and I was producing an American artist who shall remain nameless. We were at Ocean Way Recording and David and Nile Rodgers were in the next studio. Ocean Way had a communal canteen, so we often sat in there and chatted about all things and he was fantastic.
The artist I was working with had this girl that he desperately wanted to shag and she was a massive Bowie fan. When we were in the canteen, he said: 'Do me a favor, David? Can you film something to camera with me and act like you're my best mate and she’ll definitely sleep with me?'
And he did it. It was hilarious." -- As told to Richard Smirke