Eno, Wakeman and Gabriel Lead Prog Tributes for David Bowie

Social media was still buzzing with tributes to David Bowie on his 69th birthday on January 8th , and reviews of his new album Blackstar, which was released on the same day.

So to say that the world of music was shaken to its core by the news of his death on the morning of the 10th (UK time), is for once an understatement. Rick Wakeman, who played piano on Hunky Dory and was presented with the tough choice deciding between joining Yes or the Spiders from Mars in 1971 led the tributes as the news broke with a heartfelt tweet.

“As I’m sure you can imagine I’m gutted hearing of David’s passing. He was the biggest influence & encouragement I could ever have wished for.”

Brian Eno who collaborated with Bowie on some of his most potent music, commented, “David’s death came as a complete surprise, as did nearly everything else about him. We knew each other for over 40 years, in a friendship that was always tinged with echoes of Pete and Dud. Over the last few years,with him living in New York and me in London, our connection was by e-mail. We signed off with invented names: some of his we’re Mr. Showbiz, Milton Keynes, Rhoda Borrocks and The Duke Of Ear.

“About a year ago we started talking about Outside - the last album we worked on together. We both liked that album a lot and felt it had fallen through the cracks. We talked about revisiting it, taking it somewhere new. I was looking forward to that.

“I received an e-mail from him seven days ago. Ir was funny as always, and as surreal, looping through word games and allusions and all the usual stuff we did.It ended with this sentence: ‘Thank you for the good times Brian, they will never rot’. And it was signed ‘Dawn’.

“I realise now he was saying goodbye.”

(Image credit: Getty)

Guitarist Adrian Belew, who played with Bowie in the late 70s said “RIP David. I love you.”

Peter Gabriel offered this tribute via Facebook: “I was shocked to learn of David Bowie’s death this morning. He meant so much to me and to so many.

“He was a one-off, a brilliant outlier, always exploring, challenging and inspiring anyone who wanted to push the boundaries of music, art, fashion and society.

Heroes, for me, was always one of the great Bowie tracks. Heroism in the face of oppression and desperation”

“There are so few artists who can touch a generation as he did, we will miss him badly. Long Live Lazarus.”

Other tributes from the prog community included this from Ian Anderson via Facebook. As well as recalling how he had somehow persuaded Bowie to come and play saxophone on To Know Him Is To Love Him on Steeleye Span’s 1974 album Now We Are Six, which he was producing, he had this to say.

“For David to die now is a huge sadness. Always the Mother Of Reinvention, there should have been more to come. But in true theatrical narrative fashion, always his forte, he released the iTunes chart number one album on a Good Friday and his death was announced on early Monday, UK time. Could only have had more impact, perhaps, if the events had been the other way round.

“The most inventive, original and very British of artists, perhaps, since the late 60s. David Bowie. Art Pop supremo. RIP”

Steven Wilson posted on his own website, saying, “It felt very surreal to wake up this morning into a world that no longer has David Bowie in it. I can’t imagine there is any rock or pop musician on earth that hasn’t been influenced by Bowie, either directly or indirectly, and I’m no exception.

“One of the first records I was given as a child as a birthday gift was the 1973 reissue of his novelty song The Laughing Gnome, and as a 6 year old I loved it, and I probably still would if I heard it again now (even though that single was lost to me decades ago, I can still vividly remember the yellow Deram label and that the B-side was The Gospel According to Tony Day). Then a few years later one of the first singles I bought with my own pocket money was “Beauty and the Beast” from his 1977 album Heroes, unaware at the time that the song also had the fingerprints of 2 more of my future heroes all over it, Fripp and Eno.

I spent this morning listening to Bowie’s fantastic (and as it turns out final) new album Blackstar, and compiling my own personal playlist of his songs, which I want to play before the shows on my forthcoming tour. So many brilliant ones to chose from, what an extraordinary catalogue. And what an extraordinary artist. Rest in Peace.”

(Image credit: Getty)

Fish wrote another Facebook tribute on his indebtedness to Bowie, “Bowie was hugely underrated as a wordsmith. I consider him one of the great rock/pop lyricists of our generation and his mastery of simple, powerful and evocative phrases and choruses had a major influence on me as a lyricist.

“I met him very briefly once at a gig and have to say that he was one of the few people that I was absolutely starstruck by. An enormous and regal presence I had no idea what to say to him and we parted as swiftly as we met.

“And now he’s gone and today will be remembered by so many who were touched by his work and his craft for a very long time. We have lost someone who played an immense role in shaping the music that we know and who will never be replaced. David Bowie, Starman . RIP”

Kim Sevior of Touchstone offered a shocked “What the hell did I just wake up to?! RIP David Bowie. I’m stunned.”

There were also tributes from Brian May, Sonja Kristina, Steve Hillage, Trey Gunn, Judy Dyble, Arthur Brown, members of Marillion and many more.

Mike Barnes

Mike Barnes is the author of Captain Beefheart - The Biography (Omnibus Press, 2011) and A New Day Yesterday: UK Progressive Rock & the 1970s (2020). He was a regular contributor to Select magazine and his work regularly appears in Prog, Mojo and Wire. He also plays the drums.