David Bowie Reveals His Favorite Songwriters
via David Bowie/YouTube
Even though David Bowie is considered an icon who gave a unique discography over the course of his career, he himself admitted that his creativity in his craft was not possible without the artists he looked up to.
Take a look at these ten of Bowie’s favorite songwriters who influenced and molded his style of songwriting and performance.
It was no surprise if Bob Dylan became Bowie’s inspiration when he lived in London, despite Bowie’s one subtle jab at him in his Hunky Dory song, “Song for Bob Dyan.” Soon after, Bowie succeeded his idol as the leading rock figure. However, Bowie admitted that they were not good friends. He said:
“I saw Dylan in New York seven, eight months ago. We don’t have a lot to talk about. We’re not great friends. Actually, I think he hates me. We went back to somebody’s house after some gig at a club. We had all gone to see someone. I can’t remember who, and Dylan was there.
“I just talked at him for hours and hours and hours, and whether I amused him or scared him or repulsed him, I really don’t know. I didn’t wait for any answers. I just went on and on about everything. And then I said goodnight. He never phoned me.”
David Bowie didn’t let many artists have a direct influence on his work, but one of those who broke his high walls was Tom Verlaine. Maybe because Verlaine unquestionably has a brilliant yet erratic mind and he was able to impress Bowie at that time.
Bowie did not hide his admiration for the Pixies. In fact, during his one interview, he mentioned what he liked most about their music and that is the “dynamic of keeping the verse extremely quiet and then erupting into a blaze of noise for the choruses.” Bowie also gave Frank Black good comments. He said:
“The permutations he created within the different subjects that he dealt with were so unusual that it caught my ear immediately. […] It’s done so effortlessly, and it’s done with such a sense of fun and enthusiasm; there’s a great sense of humour underlying everything [Francis] does.”
Lou Reed is the musician on our list who probably had the most impact on David Bowie. Reed’s band, The Velvet Underground, did not only receive encouragement from the icon, but they formed a genuine connection too.
David Bowie only had little to no interest in The Beatle’s music, not until he found his footing in the middle of the decade’s conclusion. Undoubtedly, The Beatles had a colossal impact on everyone during that time and Bowie is one of them. He was also vocal about who he liked the most in the band and that is John Lennon.
For Bowie, Lennon was probably “one of the brightest, quickest-witted, earnestly socialist men I’ve ever met in my life. Socialist in its true definition, not in a fabricated political sense, a real humanist, and he had a really spiteful sense of humour which, of course, being English, I adored.”
Another addition to the list is Scott Walker who his record company hailed as “a solo artist, producer, and composer of uncompromising originality.” Walker was truly one of the most creative songwriters of the 1960s and ’70s and Bowie was inspired by his works. He has traveled together with his band across different continents in the world.
Robert Wyatt, a former member of Soft Machine and who became well-known as a significant figure in the Canterbury scene, is also included on this list. Bowie was perhaps inspired as well because of his most notable contribution to British music and which was his 1982 single, “Shipbuilding.” Bowie commented on this by saying that it was one of the most important records of the entire decade.
David Bowie was not yet being given the spotlight as a performer of folk-influenced tunes in London’s small clubs at the start of the 1960s. At that time, he really took his time and gave so much work into getting the right inspirational insights. Thankfully, there are Little Richard’s concerts. Little Richard was being looked up to by Bowie when he was still starting and it’s one of the few tours he has attended to.
In Bowie’s opinion, this ‘60s singer-songwriter was “way too qualified for folk.” Zimmerman grew up being a classically-trained string player from Healdsburg, a small town in California’s Wine Country. There he released his first album before shifting his focus to making novels, poetry, and orchestral composition.
“Now there’s a title with cool clarity. The guy’s way too qualified for folk, in my opinion. Degrees in theory and composition, studying under composer Henry Onderdonk, Fulbright scholarship, and he wants to be Dylan. A waste of an incendiary talent? Not in my opinion,” Bowie said about Zimmerman.
Bowie also had a relationship with the new wave era’s one of the most prolific songwriters, David Byrne. Byrne first gained popularity with Talking Heads before forming a partnership with Brian Eno and becoming a renowned solo artist in his own right.
Byrne, just like Bowie, has always had a voracious taste for variety. He has written innumerable solo albums and he has also authored novels and designed stage productions outside the music industry.