Various personages have been dubbed the “comedian’s comedian” or the “writer’s writer” over the years. But who deserves to be called the rock star’s rock star, the one who loomed so large that even other music superstars looked up to him? The answer might just be David Bowie, as suggested by a lovely little documentary short from Okayplayer. The music world is still mourning Bowie’s death in January of this year. Back in March and April, there were all-star tribute concerts in Bowie’s honor held at Carnegie Hall and Radio City Music Hall, respectively. Okayplayer was filming behind the scenes on those nights and captured some candid backstage interviews with the musicians on hand, including Perry Farrell, Michael Stipe, Robyn Hitchcock, Debbie Harry, Laurie Anderson, Bilal, Cyndi Lauper, and more.
The interviewees talk about how Bowie directly influenced their lives and careers, through his ever-evolving music and ever-shifting public persona. Wayne Coyne of The Flaming Lips, for instance, lumps Bowie in with such legendary figures as Santa Claus, Jesus Christ, and Evel Knievel before pondering the singer’s humanity: “He’s just a man, and he does all this stuff. He reinvents himself. And it’s not even his real name!”
For Lauper, Bowie was the first rock star to become a full-fledged performance artist, setting a precedent that is widely imitated today. Harry remembers being intimidated by just catching sight of Bowie during a Blondie sound check. Anderson has a strange anecdote about the time she psychically linked with Bowie to create matching drawings of men hanging themselves. For Heart’s Ann Wilson, the androgynous Bowie was an aspirational figure—anyone could grow up to be Major Tom. As part of its Bowie tribute project, Okayplayer has also created some trippy 3-D memorials featuring Coyne, Wilson, Harry, and others.