Dennis Davis, an in-demand drummer whose talents can be heard on seven David Bowie albums, has died after a battle with cancer.
Davis was Bowie’s drummer throughout the Thin White Duke’s most productive zone, a period which saw the creation of Young Americans, Station to Station, Low, the “Berlin Trilogy” (Heroes, Low and Lodger), the live album Stage and Scary Monsters, and he joined Bowie on the road several times through that remarkable creative stretch.
Bowie’s producer Tony Visconti paid tribute to “one of the most creative drummers I have ever worked with.” In a message posted to his Facebook page, Visconti recalled Davis as a “disciplined jazz drummer who tore into rock with a jazz sensibility.” By the time of recording 1980’s Scary Monsters, Davis was “playing parts that were unthinkable but they fit in so perfectly. His sense of humor was wonderful. 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.”
Born and raised in Manhattan, Davis learned his craft under the tutelage of master jazz drummers Max Roach and Elvin Jones. He recorded the first of many albums with Roy Ayers in 1973 (Coffy) before he got the call from Bowie a year later. Davis also worked on Iggy Pop’s 1977 set The Idiot and went on to record with the likes of Stevie Wonder, George Benson and Jermaine Jackson. Davis returned to the fold when he played percussion on Bowie’s final trek, his A Reality Tour, in 2003.
“There will never be another drummer, human being and friend like Dennis, a magical man,” says Visconti.
His death follows the shock passing of Bowie on Jan. 10, just two days after the release of what turned out to be his final album, Blackstar.