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The Life and Legacy of David Bowie; Imagine a World. Aired 2-2:30p ET
Aired January 11, 2016 - 14:00:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
CHRISTIANE AMANPOUR, CNN HOST (voice-over): Tonight: the Starman heads home. David Bowie, innovator, inspiration, iconoclast dies at 69.
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AMANPOUR (voice-over): And he surely did blow our minds as the first artist to make his identity his canvas. We profile the life and the legacy
of a unique figure as one Ziggy Stardust, Aladdin Sane and The Thin White Duke, the touchstone for a generation of musicians, thinkers and leaders,
an actor, filmmaker, fashion icon and taboo breaker.
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AMANPOUR: How his art and his example changed the world.
AMANPOUR: Good evening, everyone, and welcome to the program. I'm Christiane Amanpour in London.
When was the last time the Western world came together to mourn a musician?
When a sudden and shocking glam rock death dominated news broadcasts?
When the British prime minister, the head of the global Anglican Church, the leader of the NATO military alliance and one of the top football
managers all poured tributes to a rock star.
AMANPOUR (voice-over): From ground control to "Life on Mars," David Bowie crossed all the frontiers, broke all the rules and created new norms. In
the summer of '69, his legendary first smash, "Space Oddity," hit the music stores just nine days before Neil Armstrong touched down on the moon for
And all day, the generation that came of age with Bowie's transformational sound and now runs the world has paid tribute to the man who had the
courage, not just the talent, to stay way ahead of his time all the time.
Upon hearing of Bowie's death at 69 after a private struggle with cancer, the British prime minister David Cameron described the singer as a creative
genius who provided the soundtrack to our lives.
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DAVID CAMERON, PRIME MINISTER, GREAT BRITAIN: He was a master of reinvention and one of the things that's so incredible is almost all his
reinventions were incredible successes and worked brilliantly. So we mourn the loss of a great talent.
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AMANPOUR: And Bowie may not have been openly religious but the Archbishop of Canterbury said that he was inspired by the artist as a young man.
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JUSTIN WELBY, ARCHBISHOP OF CANTERBURY: I remember sitting and listening to his songs endlessly in the '70s, particularly, and always really
relishing what he was, what he did, the impact he had.
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AMANPOUR: And Arsene Wenger, the manager of the Arsenal Football Club, said David Bowie's simple message was, "Be strong enough to be yourself."
And CNN's Nick Glass looks back at this extraordinary life.
NICK GLASS, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): The simple truth is David Bowie was magnetically, agelessly cool.
DAVID BOWIE, MUSIC ICON: Through '84, I had the ride of my life, I mean the whole "Let's Dance" kind of thing, being shoved into that kind of --
out of the cult status into this kind of, oh, the new Phil Collins, you know.
BOWIE: It was like, what is this?
I'm on the radio, mum.
GLASS (voice-over): "Modern Love," another hit from his album, "Let's Dance."
BOWIE: And then two or three years, where I really felt like, "oh, he was lost in the wilderness with only his drugs for companionship."
It really took me a long time to get back on my feet again and realize that what I really enjoyed doing was --
BOWIE: -- the creative process of making imaginative music, not reaching the expectations of an audience.
GLASS (voice-over): It all began at school outside London in the early '60s. At 16, he already had careful hair and the band.
PETER FRAMPTON, MUSICIAN: I could count on one hand the people that were - - had started playing music that young in the school. It was pretty obvious that he had something very early on that was going to blossom.
GLASS (voice-over): "The Jean Genie" from 1972.
BOWIE: Being an artist, ever since I was a kid, the one thing I really wanted to do was to affect the medium. You know? That was like very
important to me. And I think if you feel that you've contributed to the currency and changed it a little, that's really -- that's really good for
GLASS (voice-over): This was the cover of his first album, simply called "David Bowie" in 1967. "Space Oddity" followed in 1969 with its famous
GLASS (voice-over): Translucent skin, great bone structure; physically, there was always something otherworldly about Bowie. An old schoolmate did
some of his early album covers. They had fought over a girl at school, leaving Bowie with his left eye famously discolored and dilated.
I knew Davie wouldn't fight me. And I was so annoyed and I just went, like that and, you know. We made up and been friends afterwards and he did say
to me many years later that I did him a favor. So gave him that interplanetary look. Yes.
GLASS (voice-over): The title track from the "Ziggy Stardust" album in 1972.
BOWIE: The chameleon will change the color of its skin to fit into its environment. I think I've done quite the reverse.
TONY VISCONTI, PRODUCER: I know like when he was in the Ziggies, the Ziggy Stardust phase, I know he was the brains, he was the ideas guy and he
dreamt all that up.
GLASS (voice-over): "Life on Mars" from 1973.
VISCONTI: I would say what David's strength is, he's always making a movie in a sense. He's like a director. He sees something, he's got a vision of
a new kind of sound and a new direction and he goes for it.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Nothing you have seen or heard about David Bowie will prepare you for the impact of his first dramatic performance in "The Man
Who Fell to Earth."
GLASS (voice-over): In the movies, it was invariably a great entrance.
FRAMPTON: Just when you think you got him figured out, he comes out and he's an actor, he's a musician, he's an artist. You know. And he puts
them all together, you know, and does whatever he wishes whenever he wishes.
GLASS (voice-over): As a teenager, he signed his name with the flourish of a born star, Davie Jones, the name he was born with. Bowie's greatest
talent was always his voice and his ability to write songs for that voice. There were 27 studio albums in all.
BOWIE: I'm kind of greedy for something that kind of really sparks me off and gets me thinking. And I'd -- one tends to find that on the outside of
the mainstream. You know, because the -- once you get sucked into the middle of the mainstream, it's tyrannical in there. It's despotic. And I
don't want to be ruled by that blandness, you know. There is nothing in there, in the mainstream, that I want in my life. It really is just not
what I want.
GLASS (voice-over): "Heroes" from 1977.
GLASS (voice-over): David Bowie, the outsider, who became a legend on his own terms.
AMANPOUR: On his own terms, indeed.
And the film and stage producer, Robert Fox, has known David Bowie for four decades. He saw the ailing superstar just weeks ago in New York and he
joins me now here in London.
Welcome to the program, Bob.
ROBERT FOX, FILM AND STAGE PRODUCER: Thank you.
AMANPOUR: Tell me about the last time you saw him, I ask because so many people are so shocked by this sudden news. Nobody -- very few people knew
he was so ill.
FOX: The last time I saw him was the day after "Lazarus," the musical that I worked on with him, opened, and I went 'round to see him to talk about
the musical and also because --
FOX: -- I was going back to London and to say goodbye. And he wasn't feeling particularly well.
I knew that I only had a brief moment but he was impeccable as ever, his manners were impeccable and he talked about the future of the show. He
talked a little bit about the treatment that he was going to start and he was optimistic and hopeful and positive as ever.
AMANPOUR: And did you, along with a very close circle, know for a while that he was so desperately ill?
FOX: A few people knew and they were the people that I think he felt had to know to explain why he sometimes couldn't be around. I don't think it
was because we were special and different. It was because of a practicality that he knew some people would feel it hard if he wasn't there
for some reason.
But I think that was the only reason we knew.
AMANPOUR: It's extraordinary and we will show, at the end of our program, the music video of "Lazarus." It's now, in retrospect -- and of course it
was released, the album, just a few days ago on his 69th birthday on Friday, just two days before he died.
He is saying goodbye. That video is him saying goodbye and I think you were there at the studio while he was doing a practice?
FOX: Yes, I went to the studio. He asked me to go down to his studio in Brooklyn when I went over for the first day rehearsal and he was recording
the video for --
FOX: He was not well. But he was, you know, amazing.
AMANPOUR: And what did the people around him say?
I mean, the producers, the directors of the video.
FOX: Well, I sat with the director of the video, who told me that he had worked with many, many great rock stars and that nobody that he had ever
worked with came close to David in his way he conducted himself and his professionalism.
AMANPOUR: And he was so nice and apparently had impeccable manners.
FOX: He did. He did.
AMANPOUR: That is the video and we'll be talking about it a bit later.
What does he mean to you?
You've known him for four decades.
How did the friendship start?
FOX: The friendship started at a friend's house and we found ourselves in conversation. And I was in awe because it was David Bowie and he
immediately put me at my ease and we just started to chat. I don't remember exactly what it was about but I felt comfortable in his presence.
AMANPOUR: And fast forward all these decades. You were the one who collaborated on his last major product, "Lazarus," the theater and
obviously the album, the song from the album as well.
And he was -- lived in New York, not under the gaze of the paparazzi. And you talked and you wrote a beautiful piece for "Vogue" today, about how he
would go around incognito, even to the great V&A, Victoria and Albert Museum costume retrospective they did of him.
How did he get away with it?
FOX: Well, he had the ability to become -- he was chameleon in many ways, as we know. But he could become a very ordinary looking man. And
sometimes I would meet him in New York in a cafe and people wouldn't recognize him and they would be sitting three feet from him. He could just
-- he could fit in.
AMANPOUR: You're an impresario and you've been doing this with the best for a long, long time.
What does he, the artist, mean to our world?
I mean, you've seen the array of different people who've paid tributes to him today.
FOX: Well, I think, you know, he means so much to so many millions of people all over the world and everybody has their own experience of him,
whether it was the start of a love affair or a break-up or -- you know, everyone has got history with David.
And my history with him is that, in the last 15 years, we saw each other, then he asked me to work with him. And I've had the best working
experience I've ever had in my life. And that's all I can tell you from my experience.
AMANPOUR: You get that sense from so many people. He was transformational. He had guts.
FOX: He literally did what he felt he wanted to do and he didn't mind if it was -- he wasn't after the big bucks. If the big bucks came, I'm sure
he was happy to have them. But that was not the intention.
The intention was to do the work he believed in with the people that he believed in. And he made you want to do the best for him, which is a great
AMANPOUR: Robert Fox, thank you very much indeed for sharing those memories.
FOX: Thank you.
AMANPOUR: Thank you.
And in 1987, Bowie performed at the Berlin Wall, the divided city that he called home in the mid-'70s and where he wrote "Heroes."
He told a journalist recently, quote, "I'll never forget that. It was one of the most emotional performances I've ever done. They had backed up the
stage to the wall itself so that the wall was acting as our backdrop. And we could hear them cheering and singing along from the other side.
"God, even now I get choked up. It was breaking my heart and I'd never done anything like that in my life and I guess I will never again."
Just five days later, near the Berlin Wall, the U.S. president, Ronald Reagan, issued that famous demand to the Soviet Union.
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RONALD REAGAN, FORMER PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Mr. Gorbachev, tear down this wall.
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AMANPOUR: And, indeed, two years later, that wall was torn down by the people themselves. And as we've mentioned, Bowie's "Space Oddity" heralded
humankind's space odyssey.
Today, 47 years later, the British astronaut, Tim Peake, tweeted his sadness from the International Space Station.
And many, of course, will recall the Canadian astronaut Chris Hadfield's version of this Bowie classic back in 2013.
AMANPOUR: Welcome back to the program, where today we remember the extraordinary life and work of David Bowie, who has died of cancer at the
age of 69.
Tributes are pouring in from across the music world, of course, from Ringo Starr to the Rolling Stones, Kanye West to Kiss frontman Gene Simmons, the
Foo Fighters to Pharrell Williams. David Bowie's musical genius crossed generations and genres.
And joining me now to talk more about this is David Sinclair, the music critic for "The Times of London."
Welcome to the program.
How shocking is it for you to imagine a world without David Bowie?
DAVID SINCLAIR, MUSIC CRITIC: Well, it shakes you. It shakes you to your foundations because he's done so much, he's contributed in so many
different genres, as you say, and he's -- there's something about him that has a slight sort of immortality, you know, in his music, anyway.
You felt that somehow he would go on forever. Of course, nothing does but he seemed to have more -- you know, he seemed to be able to change his
persona at will (INAUDIBLE).
AMANPOUR: So we've just been speaking about all the world leaders, the generations (INAUDIBLE). There was a huge transformational quality of
As a music critic, you know, were you surprised -- has anybody else been able to do that kind of constant reinvention?
SINCLAIR: Well, there's only been one --
SINCLAIR: -- David Bowie. There's been a few others. Madonna has done it. I think she modeled herself quite a lot on him.
AMANPOUR: In fact, she tweeted today as well and then talked about how he being himself and bringing the outside in was a huge inspiration to her.
SINCLAIR: Yes, for sure.
And I guess you go through even people like Lady Gaga, I would think that her modus operandi probably owes a debt to David Bowie all the back there.
Because you see, when he arrived in the first instance, it was very much a case of music had a -- you played pop music, you plugged in the amps, you
had your jeans and your shirt and that was it.
And he kind of came in -- he -- as I think one of (INAUDIBLE) said he visualized his own movie in his head somehow and he adopted the personality
of the character. He became something else through his music.
But at the same time, his music was fantastic in terms of its melodical qualities, the way it just embeds itself in your mind. So many people know
AMANPOUR: It's anthemic; it's really -- crosses all sorts of domains and his music, also, he had the most beautiful voice, didn't he?
SINCLAIR: His voice was pretty impressive, yes, he did. And if you ever heard a karaoke version of "Life on Mars," you know, somebody who thinks
they can sing it trying to do it, then you realize just how good his voice was.
He had a -- he was a stylist. I mean, he had a very, very distinctive, unique style. You always knew it was David Bowie. He had that slight way
of slightly arch quality, almost theatrical in his pronunciation of words. He sounds sometimes like an old London dame.
AMANPOUR: He said that he would collect accents and personas and all the rest of it.
But of course, you know, there he was, dressing in women's clothes, wearing glitter and an earring and being ambisexual. Nobody really knew what was
going on there. And you got the sense that he was kind of laughing at everybody and daring to challenge him. But he was so way ahead of his time
on that. I mean, Boy George himself has tweeted about he really owes his life and career to David Bowie.
But how did he get away with it?
SINCLAIR: Well I think, you know, fortune favors the bold or the brave. And he was very brave and he was very imaginative and very new and he came
in -- but also he had a very good talent for just riding the zeitgeist, if you like.
AMANPOUR: But he was ahead of the zeitgeist.
SINCLAIR: Possibly. But he was very well at -- the timing was always good. Like Major Tom, a week before the -- Neil Armstrong gets onto the
moon, you know, that kind of thing, I think --
AMANPOUR: And "Heroes" at the Berlin Wall two days before Reagan --
SINCLAIR: -- with his own wall of synthesizers to sort of go with it. And so he definitely -- he had that sense of --
AMANPOUR: He was super smart.
SINCLAIR: Yes. He was. He kept himself in time with the times, which is a hard thing to do.
AMANPOUR: And, again, led the times, really. I mean, it seems that the times have been following him to an extent.
But we talk about all these people who he's inspired.
Where does a Kanye West get inspiration from a David Bowie?
SINCLAIR: Well, that's a good question. I mean, in the sense that David Bowie has inspired everyone after a certain point. I mean, I don't see too
much rap in -- from David Bowie. I mean, it wasn't one of his things that he was noted for, particularly.
But he certainly did an awful lot of very successful work with Niall Rogers in the R&B field and when he first was successful in America, it was with
"Fame," which was a tremendous kind of funk, soul kind of disco kind of song that became successful on the dance floor before it became successful
So, you know, Kanye West would be in awe of that, I'm sure. And the kind of work that he did in all sorts of genres would, I'm sure, have made an
impact on someone like him.
AMANPOUR: Yes. Amazing. And of course, for the younger generations, he met his demons as well with the substances and the drugs and he survived
that as well. He was an incredible survivor.
SINCLAIR: He was a survivor and he put himself through some pretty severe substance abuse at different times during his life and I think he became a
reformed character and changed completely, I think, when he went to New York and lived a completely different life.
AMANPOUR: And we'll see his last will and testament, if you like, shortly, his last music video that has just been released.
The outpouring of sadness and affection -- thank you very much, David Sinclair, for joining us -- really transferred from icon to icon as well.
As we said, the Rolling Stones tweeted their sorrow and appreciation of Bowie's musical genius.
Back in 1985, Bowie teamed up with Mick Jagger to raise awareness and cash for the Ethiopian famine, dueting "Dancing in the Streets" for Live Aid in
AMANPOUR (voice-over): And finally, tonight, imagine a world without David Bowie. It's hard and anyway his music will live on. Tonight, we've been
paying tribute to Davie Jones, Ziggy Stardust, Aladdin Sane, The Thin White Duke and the countless other personas we all knew as David Bowie.
He sang about starmen and blackstars, about China girls and young Americans and heroes. Prescient as ever and totally in charge of his own story to
the very end, Bowie bade farewell on his last album, "Blackstar," which was released just this past Friday, January 8th, his 69th birthday. And we
sign off now with the man who fell to Earth, rising like Lazarus of the stars, saying goodbye in his own way, in his own words.