David Bowie was given a heads up about his death decades before it occurred, according to his longtime keyboardist.
For an updated edition of Clifford Slapper’s 2015 biography Bowie’s Piano Man: The Life of Mike Garson, coming in May, the keyboardist tells a few stories he hadn’t before. One of them is about Bowie meeting a psychic during the late 70s who forecasted his Jan. 2016 passing. “(The psychic) told him he was going to die at 70 or 69, which is when he died,” Garson, who’s preparing to lead the next leg of his all-star Celebrating David Bowie tour in North America, tells Billboard. “There are a lot of psychics who are out of their minds and full of it, but this one was real. David knew it and didn’t doubt it for a second. He told me about (the reading) with certainty, accepted it and planned his future out based on that. He had 30, 40 years to plan out his life.”
The new version of the book will feature an additional 100 pages of material gathered by Slapper, including interviews with “so many new people that weren’t in the book.” The project also led to Garson’s last conversation with Bowie, during the fall of 2014, after the author compiled a song-by-song commentary about all the tracks he played on Bowie’s album. “It was pretty profound,” Garson recalls, “so I wrote David instantly and said, ‘I can’t believe this.’ And he called back within 10 seconds and said, ‘Mike, we did an amazing body of work together.’ And the way he said it, I got off the phone and said to my wife, ‘I’m never gonna see him again or play with him again.’ It was the strangest feeling. I didn’t know he was sick with cancer. It was like, ‘Thank you for this work, and goodbye…'”
Garson, who played on nine of Bowie’s studio albums from 1973-2003 and was part of several tours, is gearing up for the Feb. 10 start of Celebrating David Bowie, which on this run features Bowie alumni Earl Slick, Carmine Rojas and Gerry Leonard, along with Rolling Stones backup singer Bernard Fowler, Sting‘s son Joe Sumner and vocalist Gaby Moreno. “I think it’s a collective healing (at the shows),” Garson says. “It’s a composite feeling. It’s not just my grief; It feels like we all lost him, maybe earlier than we thought. People didn’t get enough of him and they want to hear these songs, and they sing every word for two hours.” He adds that the musicians’ Bowie pedigrees make Celebrating David Bowie the most authentic tribute available.
“We have great players who were all his music directors at different times,” Garson explains. “Since we’re the alumni we can make them ours. The respect that his people have for David’s music and how well they own it and deliver their parts, and it’s kind of startling to me and fascinating and it shows the depth of Davis’ music and layers that he had to impart to his public. It’s so much deeper than a rock start. He was a real force of nature, a renaissance man, and we’re just trying to honor him and what we did.”