Rolling Stone interview series Unknown Legends features long-form conversations between senior writer Andy Greene and veteran musicians who have toured and recorded alongside icons for years, if not decades. All are renowned in the business, but some are less well known to the general public. Here, these artists tell their complete stories, giving an up-close look at life on music’s A list. This edition features drummer Sterling Campbell.
In May 1978, 14-year-old Sterling Campbell walked into the lobby of his Upper West Side New York City apartment building and came across his neighbor, drummer Dennis Davis. “I was very inquisitive back then and unafraid to ask questions,” says Campbell. “I saw a stick bag and I said, ‘Hey, what is that? Where are you going?’”
He was off to Madison Square Garden to play drums for David Bowie on the “Heroes” tour, and he invited Campbell to come along and check out the show. “I knew the song ‘Fame’ and I knew of Bowie, but I didn’t know his impact or anything,” says Campbell. “To make a long story short, I went into the Garden and I when I came out, I was another person. I clearly saw where I wanted to go in life.”
By cosmic coincidence, Davis is the second-longest-serving touring drummer in Bowie history. The 14-year-old kid he randomly brought to the “Heroes” tour is the first. Campbell’s journey from the audience of Madison Square Garden to the stage backing Bowie is a long one that involved stints playing with Cyndi Lauper, Duran Duran, and Soul Asylum. Since 2007, he’s been the touring drummer for the B-52’s. He phoned up Rolling Stone from his New York apartment to go over the whole saga.
What’s the first music that drew you in as a child?
I come from a family where I’m the youngest of six boys. My family members weren’t musicians, but they were listeners and lovers of music. They had a very open palate to everything and growing up I got to hear everything. My father was really into Ray Charles and Frank Sinatra. My mother was into all of that too. She saw all the greats, like Billie Holiday, and she want dancing at the Savoy [Ballroom in Harlem].
My brothers were into Motown and Philly soul. Stevie Wonder was about to go on full-blown fire in the Seventies. Those records were always being played in my house. They were into bands like Chicago, too. I was just hearing a lot of things growing up.
What drew you to the drums?
I don’t know. I think I was just banging on stuff and my mother picked up on it and got me a drum kit. I’d play beats with my hands on surfaces.
Did certain drummers inspire you at a young age?
I didn’t know Stevie played a lot of instruments, but I was very influenced by him. And my family listened to Chicago. I loved Nigel Olsson from Elton John’s band. My family were really good listeners and it made me a good listener. I picked up on all those things.
You were a teenager in New York during a really interesting time musically.
The Seventies was on fire with music, and if you lived in New York, that was the hot spot. That was the place to play. It was also where a lot of things were happening culturally. The city was kind of cash-strapped, so it was great for artists. A lot of things started coming out. I remember feeling the first disco beat. That was sort of coming out of Philly with the Philly soul. And that morphed into disco.
New York was regional back then and I didn’t get into punk until the Eighties. I wasn’t a downtown kid just yet. Everything for me happened uptown. And back then, you got to use your imagination to know what your artists were like. You didn’t have all this information about them, so you had to imagine what they were like by looking at the album cover. I thought that way about Elton John. His records were almost like a comic book and he was a super hero.
Tell me about seeing the “Heroes” show at Madison Square Garden.
It was a huge thing for me. He opened the show with an ambient piece [“Warszawa”], and I was like, “Oh, my God.” I was so blown away. And by that point, I’d gotten to see some concerts. I saw Elton John at the Garden in 1976. I saw a lot of stuff at the Apollo and a lot of R&B stuff. But he had such a different take on music.
He’s doing “Heroes,” but he’s mixing in the R&B stuff and the Ziggy stuff. These were huge influences. I would dare to say that Depeche Mode, the Cure, and all those bands who were young kids like me probably saw the same thing. I mean, he was already in the Eighties. He was always ahead of the curve like that.
Only a handful of people have played drums for Bowie. The fact that one lived in your childhood apartment building is quite a coincidence.
It goes deeper than that. I had another childhood friend, Zack Alford, and I brought him to meet Dennis. [Alford went on to play on the Outside and Earthling tours in the Nineties.] Also, [Let’s Dance and Tonight drummer] Omar Hakim was just leaving as I was coming in. There’s this very interesting New York connection with [Bowie] drummers.
How old were you when you knew you wanted to be a professional drummer?
I was 14. It was the night I saw the “Heroes” tour. That was the first time I saw a concert by myself. The impact of it was like when people saw 2001: A Space Odyssey and got their minds blown by it. It expanded everything in my brain. I didn’t know music could do that.
How did your career start to grow?
When the Seventies ended, I went to to the High School of Music and Art. Now I’m around artists and musicians. When I grew up, I was mostly around people that listened to R&B. Now I’m around people I would never have hung around with.
I’m around the tie-dye people. I’m around jazz-fusion guys. I got in with the punk people and followed them downtown. I was like, “Oh, shoot, all this stuff is going on.” I go to all these clubs like CBGB to check them out, and I eventually answer a call for this band called the Pedantics. I started playing with them and we hit the scene. I’m playing places like CB’s constantly and getting to hear what’s new in music.
And then in the Eighties, hip-hop was starting to come into play and I knew a lot of the key people from that whole thing. All that stuff started coming together, including electronic dance music. So when you hear Depeche Mode, it’s got a little disco and a little funk and a little angular noise rock. I was around all of that.
How did you wind up on the Cyndi Lauper tour in 1986?
I started getting a name for myself, but I was very naive. Someone said to me, “Cyndi Lauper is auditioning.” I said, “I’d do that, but I don’t really want to do that. I want to work with David Bowie.” I went to it just knowing “Girls Just Wanna Have Fun.” I didn’t realize how great Cyndi was.
I did the audition and the manager said, “Hey, listen. Cyndi wants to go with you.” I said, “I’m not sure I want to do it.” I didn’t have any money. I was naive, but I had my mind set on David or something of that caliber. He just looked at me with this face like, “This is an amazing opportunity. Don’t be ridiculous. You have to take this.”
Then I said, “Yes.” But it was zero to 60. One day, I was playing a club. And then some guy came up to me like, “Hey, listen. Cyndi is auditioning.” The next day, I went to the audition and I got the gig. Then I was in arenas.
How did that tour lead to you joining Duran Duran?
The Cyndi Lauper thing became a calling card. Not only did she perform, but she made an HBO movie of her tour. That got a lot of play on HBO and people saw that. To be honest, I don’t even know how the Duran thing started. I wanted to be closer and closer to things that I loved. Everything, to me, was coming out of England, so I went there.
I started working with this band that was being touted as the next Tears for Fears, this band called So. I did about eight months with them. They were highly connected. There was a connection to Genesis’ management or something like that. They were on a hiatus and one day I was staying at this hotel and I got a call from Simon Le Bon. He told me they were getting ready to go on tour and were looking for a drummer. He wanted to know if I’d be interested.
I met up with him and Nick Rhodes, but I wasn’t even sure. Then all of a sudden, I got together with John Taylor and we really hit it off. We rehearsed for the tour, and then a couple of months into it, they asked me to join the band.
Tell me about making Liberty. I’ve seen Simon and Nick say that this was a difficult time for the band. They didn’t quite know how to function in this new musical era. Did you have a sense of that?
Well, as much as I was in the band, I was still a bit of an outsider. But when I got to London, I was out and about a lot. I was watching the changes. All of a sudden, I started seeing this Manchester thing happening. The electronic dance thing was happening. I was going out a lot to see all these things and I did make suggestions to the guys in the band. I was even going in that direction myself. I knew whatever that was, it was going to be huge.
But it’s hard for any band to make that jump. Not too many people can make the clear-cut jump every time there’s these new things. That’s especially true when you represent so much. Duran represented the Eighties. They were one of the poster boys for that time.
Right. They embodied the New Romantic scene; they even coined the phrase. And now it’s the time of the Stone Roses and the Happy Mondays.
We did a promotional tour for that record [Liberty] and people just kept comparing them to what they were in the past. They really trying to make a concerted effort to change their sound. Sometimes that isn’t easy.
As I said, the whole club-culture thing was happening in Manchester where you had these dudes that were more like hippies. They’re adding this dance element and drum machines and they had a totally different thing. For them, Duran Duran was their older brothers’ and sisters’ music. It happens all the time.
It was still Duran Duran, though. What was it like for you to suddenly be in a superstar band?
I came in like a zero-to-60 thing. One second it was like, “Do you want to come in?” And then I was in friggin’ A-list world. I’m around Floyd. I’m around the Stones. Then you’re around fashion. I’m in Karl Lagerfeld’s opening. It was a huge cultural jump for me. It’s completely normal in hip-hop now, but there was nothing like that then. It was this high-end shit and the era of the supermodel.
What happened? You weren’t in the group very long.
Honestly, bro, when I was in Duran Duran I realized that I wasn’t a rock star. I love making music, but I am not a rock star. You need a certain head to do that thing. We did a year of promotion. It was a lot of photo shoots where I’d have to make a face that I didn’t want to make. It was stressful. I hated the cameras. I hated repeating myself. Also, it wasn’t my band. The press finally come around to me with the questions and it’s like, “So, what does it feel like? Do you like the yachts?” It was at that point where the press was very cynical towards the band. “Do you like champagne?”
I was so over it. And then things kind of went sour with us. Then the Nineties came and it was another huge jump. This time, you’re old enough to know: Anyone associated with the old ways, you’re immediately discriminated against. When Nirvana hit, all the friggin’ mousse-metal bands were done.
To Duran credits, they friggin’ survived it. They survived it. Just like David [Bowie], Floyd, and the Stones had to survive when punk hit in the Seventies. The really good ones will survive.
How did you wind up playing with Soul Asylum?
I was home and not doing much. But one day, all of a sudden, I got this phone call and it was Soul Asylum. They had their first major deal with Columbia, but things weren’t going well with the record [Grave Dancers Union] and they were spending craploads of money. [Producer] Michael [Beinhorn] was very specific with the drum thing and they were an indie band. I think he was trying to get more out of the drummer [Grant Young] and it wasn’t what he wanted.
Honestly, going into it, I didn’t even know what alternative music was. When I was doing the sessions with them for the first record, I was always like, “Like this? Does this work?” I was just making stuff up. And maybe thats why it worked.
Do you recall recording “Runaway Train?”
Yeah. I heard it and I just played a beat. I heard [imitates song] and all I did was play, “Boom-ba-boom, boom-ba-boom.” The only thing I changed was I stopped playing at one point. Then it broke down, and that’s what I learned from pop music. I didn’t want to play the same thing all the way through. It’s almost like DJ’ing when they start muting things. That’s what I learned in pop music. “This needs something different. It’ll be boring if I play it all the way through. Hopefully, they’ll buy into it.”
What was it like to see a song you played on get all over MTV and the radio? That was a monster hit.
It was a little bittersweet. I mean, everything is all perception. The idea of an indie band bringing in what they’d call a “session musician” was a huge no-no. When they were doing the credits, they were saying, “Hey, Sterling, is it OK if we put you down for playing percussion on the record?” To be honest with you, I wasn’t even upset about it. By that point, I was into another adventure.
Tell me how the whole Bowie thing began for you.
Going back a bit, I was a bit freaked out when I came back from Europe. I met this Spanish pop artist [Marta Sánchez] over there and we started dating. It became a whole tabloid thing out there. Their was also this racial overtone because Marta was with the “black drummer of Duran Duran.” It was crazy!
Then I start doing drugs and now I’m in Ibiza and dance music is taking off, so I’m in the heart of all this stuff. I wasn’t doing drugs in England, but now I’m in this ecstasy culture and people are filming me and now I’m getting paranoid and now I gotta go.
I end up back at home with my tail between my legs, but I kept working with Nile Rodgers. One day he goes, “Do you want to work with David?” That’s in 1992. It was the Black Tie White Noise sessions.
This is your childhood dream coming true.
Yeah. The weird thing is that I’d already been a friggin’ jet-setting rock star and been in the tabloids. I wouldn’t say I was jaded. I was into it, of course. But I wasn’t like, “I finally made it!” I definitely had an attitude about me without having an attitude.
This was the first Bowie/Nile collaboration since Let’s Dance. It was a big deal.
Yeah. I met David at an amazing time. He had just gotten married to Iman and was in a wonderful place. I met him with a smile and a handshake. It was incredible.
Then he brought you back for the Outside sessions a few years later.
Yeah. I was working in Europe with this Swiss artist and I got a call from David. I don’t even know if I can describe it. This time it wasn’t Nile. It was David himself calling me. For me, it’s like Stanley Kubrick calling. “Hey, listen, I’m doing Barry Lyndon. How would you like to be in it?”
He went, “Sterling, how is it going? Am I disturbing you? Listen, I’m probably going to do a new record with Brian Eno. What is your availability?”
That is where I got really excited. He invited me back and it was going to be with Eno and they were recording it in Montreux, Switzerland. You just couldn’t think of a better combination. I always grew up looking at the back of the album covers. I read about Mountain Studios. All that stuff was like comic stuff to me. Elton John recording at the Château and Queen at this place. I’d read all the liner notes and all that stuff. They sounded like these incredible shrines.
Tell me about the Outside sessions. This was a very new sound for Bowie, very industrial and Nine Inch Nails-inspired.
Well, there was zero direction to start with. In terms of making the record, it was my favorite experience. Once again, it was David and Brian. That’s “Heroes.” That’s the Berlin Trilogy combo. Mountain Studios.
Everyone was staying at a hotel and they set me up in a wonderful apartment literally 10 steps from the studio. That became the place where we would hang out to have lunch. They’d all come to my apartment and there was a nice table set up. Also, every morning, Brian would pick me up and we’d have breakfast before we went to the studio and he’d tell me stories.
It was beyond a dream to have these one-on-ones with him. And we hit it off. That would go into the studio. It was really Brian running the show the first couple of weeks. Brian would scheme up some new idea, simple things like, “When I do this, you do this. Try to play like water.” He would do role-play stuff. The whole time, David was painting. He didn’t sing a word, no melodies. If I looked to my left, he was like 10 feet from me, he’d paint portraits of the band the whole time, for like three weeks.
Then he got more involved?
Yeah. Basically, Brian would have all these ideas and he was trying to get us away from the regular, “OK, here’s the chords.” He was really experimenting with things. One thing he’d do was go, “This is ‘Baby Love’ by the Supremes. Now, I’m going to put the CD on and you guys play to it, but don’t play ‘Baby Love.’ You can use the chord structure, but don’t play anything like the song.’”
Then we’d do these other kind of jams. Back then, it was all tape. We’d have 30 minutes per tape and sometimes these would go for 17 minutes. Brian would have a sheet of paper that went from the beginning of the tape to the end. We’d listen back and be like, “Minute 25, something cool just happened there.”
That’s where those guys get into the genius and the alchemy. They hear stuff that you can’t hear. I couldn’t tell you, “That’s how that song came together on that record.” That was their genius of compiling all that stuff, finding that stuff. Then they can find found sounds and then intertwine themselves, lyrically, musically into it.
The best part of it for me, the super secret part, is that we were just laughing the whole time. We were just having a laugh. I realized his sense of humor even back in the day plays a huge role in that stuff.
Then your buddy Zack Alford does the tour.
What happened was I did another Soul Asylum record with Butch Vig. By that point, their drummer quit. They asked me to join the band. I was like, “OK, sure. Cool.” And then David was like, “OK, now I’m ready to go on tour.” Of course I wanted to do it, but I had committed to Soul Asylum. I really thought Zack would be the right guy. He was doing something else at the time. I said, “David, you should wait. Get Zack. He’s from that ilk of what you want.”
I went and did the Soul Asylum thing and it was time to put on the spiritual brakes. I was done by the end of that. It was great. I didn’t know anything about the Midwest and suddenly I’m around Wilco, the Replacements, and all this stuff that wasn’t on my radar at all. I got a nice schooling from that whole world and appreciation for the Midwest. It was awesome. But at the same time, I didn’t know who I was anymore.
In 1999, Bowie asked you to come back and play on Hours.
Before that, I needed to reassess my life. I came across this practice, Falun Dafa, and just tried to get all that I accumulated, the drugs and alcohol, out of my system. That was huge. I don’t know if I would have been able to come back to David had I not done that. I was kind of messed up. He’s clean and he’s sober and he wouldn’t have put up with that.
I was surprised when he got in touch with me. I didn’t think I’d get a call from him. But I started my journey up again with him.
Hours was very different than Outside. It was more stripped down and organic.
Yeah. I don’t want to speak for David, but once he’s done with something, he’s going to want to go somewhere else musically. He’ll experiment and see if something happens, but then he’ll start playing the piano or acoustic guitar and start liking that again. “I like finding chords and the melody.”
The Hours tour was your first tour with him. It must have been great to finally play shows after cutting three albums with him.
He wasn’t doing the full-blown production thing yet. He was slowly getting his feet under it again. But it was great to start playing this stuff live. I had just finished with Soul Asylum and had been playing such a different style of music. I did five years with it where there were two sides of guitars and I felt like I had to play so hard to be heard. I developed this overly hard thing. When I see some of that footage when I first got onstage with Bowie, I was a lot more aggressive than I wanted to be, playing-wise.
Not long after that, you did Low straight through at a handful of special shows.
Oh, my goodness. That was amazing. I was surprised that he wanted to do that. But it was amazing.
I think the Reality album is criminally under-appreciated.
There are moments on it. I feel that way about all of his Nineties and 2000s output. I think it’s going to come back around and people are going to go, “Oh, snap! Wow!” That’s how his music has always worked. The song “Black Tie White Noise” is so timely if you listen to it now. “Slow Burn” is another timely one.
I feel like so many of the Reality songs were designed to be played live.
That’s what was great about music making with Bowie. He started thinking about stuff that was going to work live. Usually when you make a record, you have your chart and you’re like, “This is the main one I’m digging the most.” That main one, as the weeks go by and songs start to come together, can fall down and possibly off the record. But there were songs where David could tell, “This is going to be great live.” For it to make the record, it would have to work live, too. He was thinking in that way.
My favorite tour I’ve maybe ever seen is the Reality tour. It’s been 16 years and I can remember every instant of the shows I saw in Cleveland and Pittsburgh.
Everybody in that band has been through what I just explained to you, some kind of life journey. It was the kind of thing where there were no hangups for David or any band member. We’d all been through a lot, even David, and just wanted to get down to playing the music. There was a real dedication to it.
It was a group of people that could always laugh and joke, and that’s all we did. We’d just laugh or joke before going onto the stage. It was amazing. Everything felt free.
Most Bowie tours before that had really rigid set lists. This time, it was so unpredictable. You never knew what he’d play. Each show was unique.
Ultimately, it was this simple idea of wanting to have fun and not get bored. We learned a lot of songs and we were egging him on at soundcheck. We’d be like, “C’mon, let’s do ‘Panic in Detroit.’” And he’d just get on the mic and do it and then it would be in the show.
And “The Bewlay Brothers” or “Diamond Dogs” or “Queen Bitch.” It was surreal for the fans.
Yeah. I wrote him a bunch of emails prior to the tour and I said, “Can we do this?” It was so long with all that kinds of stuff, like “Fantastic Voyage.” I knew if I put them all down, he’d at least say yes on some things.
It was a very long tour. Mike Garson and Gail Ann Dorsey told me people were getting worn out by the end. Did you feel that?
Yeah. It’s something that probably should have been spread out longer to make it doable. You get up to that certain age and it becomes a little hard.
Near the end of it, did you sense that David was ready to be done touring?
No. I thought he just wouldn’t do as many in the future, or do it like that. It was a lot.
Do you recall much of the last show at the Hurricane Festival in Germany?
Not really. We weren’t thinking, “This is the last show ever.” We were cold. It was a festival and we were the headline act. If you look at it, we’re all dressed down because it’s freezing. It was like, “I’m not going to wear that. I’m just going to wear a friggin’ hoodie. Screw this.”
And that was it. It was just like now up until the pandemic. One minute I was touring and then it was like, “OK, no more touring.” That’s it.
Did you see David much in the period after the 2004 tour?
Basically, I had a very storied thing with David. We became friends. We would go to concerts. It wasn’t all the time. But he knew I loved music. When that whole scene happened with Arcade Fire and that whole Brooklyn scene, we’d see shows together. I was with him when he went to see Arcade Fire for the first time. We saw Interpol and Secret Machines. We used to go see all those new bands every once in a while.
How did the Next Day period start?
One time I got a phone call and I told him I was at my studio working on things. He said, “Is it OK if I come by?” I’m like, “Yeah! Sure.” He comes by and we get lunch and he says, “I’m going to make this record. I’m going to keep it secret.”
That was The Next Day. You should have seen us rehearse it when we tried to work out the songs. It was the basement of this tenement building that happened to have this half-baked studio. The drums were so bad that every time I hit the kick drum, it moved. I had to keep bringing it back. I’m trying to learn these David Bowie songs, and I’m on this really bad, beaten-up drum kit.
But it was wonderful. It was so crude how we went about it. He had his little crude, digital … I don’t even think it was eight tracks. It was the cheapest way we could have possibly done it because he didn’t really want anybody to know we were doing it.
By that point, the whole thing with the internet had exploded and everyone was out and about and letting you know where they are. Here is he and he’s doing the opposite. They wanted us to sign nondisclosure agreements, but I had no problem not telling people it was happening. Even Brian [Eno] was like, “I can’t believe you guys kept this a secret.” I was like, “It was easy.”
He was in the middle of New York City making an album. I was living in New York the whole time and working at Rolling Stone. I didn’t hear a thing about it prior to the announcement. Not a peep.
I had to dispel a lot of things. The crazy and ironic thing is I heard, “Yo, I heard David’s dying.” I was like, “Well, he’s not.” Every couple of months it would be like, “I heard you guys are playing Glastonbury or headlining Coachella.” I’d be like, “I haven’t heard anything.”
Did he ever talk about playing concerts?
No. He didn’t. I think after the whole thing, I don’t know where his head was at. I’d never be like, “Hey, are we going to tour?” I’d never say that to him. Our thing became a little more sparse as time moved on. I had a sense of not wanting to bother him. I wrote him every once in a while to say “Merry Christmas”” or “Happy Birthday.”
Did you know he was sick at the end?
No. I had a correspondence with him when the single from Blackstar came out. I congratulated him. That was late December . That was the last time
The news must have been as shocking to you as it was to all of us. It was right after his birthday. The album was out. The musical was running. He went to the premiere. New videos were arriving. It felt like he was active.
I didn’t even know how to grieve. It was the first time, for me, where it felt like the world changed. And because I was connected to it in some way, I was getting responses from people from around the world. I’m not very active on social media. I’m not on the phone a lot, but my phone was going off. The pings were like casino pings. “Ding-ding-ding-ding-ding.”
It just felt like an alternate universe. I’d never been part of an event like David’s passing and how the social media works into it. I remember when The Next Day came out and he obviously wasn’t saying anything. People were so desperate for information that I started to get calls from places like The Peruvian Times. Everyone was blown away he did this.
I wrote to David and I said, “I’m starting to get all these phone calls, man. What do you want me to do with this?” He said to me, “As long as you don’t speak about my personal life, you can say whatever you like. I’ve said what I have to say.” I was like, “I’m not going to talk for you!” But I just loved that, too. It was like, “I said what I had to say. Listen to the work. Listen to the words. I said it. How long are we going to continue this thing where I have to explain it?”
Having him in my life was an incredible experience. I got to have meaningful conversations with him. I’d just be having dinner with him and he’d loosen up. He was like a Steve Jobs, such a powerful figure in history, but I’m having dinner with him and I’m helping him create this stuff, and having a laugh with him on top of it. He was so gracious. At the time I came into his life, he was everything you’d want it to be if you met your hero.
You’ve been touring with the B-52’s for many years now. That has to be a fun experience. They put on an incredible show.
They are total originals. I’ve done a couple of records with them and I don’t even understand how it even comes together. That’s that magic of music and why they sound the way they do. They’re so original and such characters — another group where you have so many laughs.
They were talking about a farewell tour.
Well, we’ll see. We have to get everything back to normal again first.
Fred Schneider is almost 70. At a certain point, he’s going to want to be done with all of that.
Well, it only works when you can fly private and you don’t have to worry about that stuff. But the world is changing. There are people trying to move away from that. It’s a young people’s game, being an artist. You have that youth and that energy. When you start getting a family and all this, it gets hard. It’s like being a tennis player. You can only get maybe to 33 or 34 and then you can’t do it. It’s technically a sport, especially on the drums, and especially playing in the B-52’s these last 11 years where there’s a lot of punk-rock tempos in there. I can do it, but it definitely took a toll on me.
Playing “Rock Lobster” 500 times can’t be easy.
Oh, my goodness. That’s the fastest of them and always the last song of the show, on top of it. But you make adjustments. Fleetwood Mac still seems to love to do it and the Eagles. If you can still do it, then do it.
What do you hope to accomplish in the coming years?
Honestly, man, just to still make music and be in the proximity of it. It’s almost impossible now for a lot of people to make a living, especially with Covid. It’s made things incredibly difficult. I’ve always had a child-like feeling about music. I’m still very inquisitive about it. I still want to do it. It’s hard since my mind and my body don’t work on the same physical level anymore. I used to be able to just get up and go.
[Bowie pianist] Mike Garson put together this benefit/tribute show on David’s birthday. A lot of the alumni are coming on, like Carlos Alomar and Andy Newmark, who played drums on Young Americans. We just cut a track with Emir Ksasan, who was the original bass player on “Fame.” We cut that together. We also worked with David Sanborn. The super-aficionado Bowie dudes are going to definitely dig some of these combinations.
A few years back, I went to see that Bowie exhibit. I was like, “I was just having a cup of friggin’ coffee with him, and now he’s in a museum?” I’m humbled to have been a part of it.