When the world lost David Bowie on January 10th, 2016, it lost one of its great creative forces. A juggernaut in film and especially music, Bowie inspired countless artists, filmmakers, musicians, and odd ducks of every kind with his dedication to individuality and integrity of creation. Since his passing, there’s been an outpouring of love and admiration for the late great iconoclast, including director Cameron Crowe‘s lovely written tribute, in which he recalled the six months he spent in Bowie’s company between his classic albums Young American and Station to Station.
Crowe was famously a music journalist in his youth — the experience that inspired him to make Almost Famous, one of his best films, and most recently, his upcoming Showtime series Roadies. While Crowe was at the TCA Press Tour to promote the series, he further opened up about the months he spent with Bowie, and the impact that experience had on him. It’s a cool story, and a nice testament to the values the legendary artist always associated himself with.
Crowe described Bowie as “the most generous and exciting interview subject that [he] was ever allowed a lot of time with,” and remembered how a teenage journalist ended up spending a half a year at the side of one of the world’s most influencial rock stars.
I’d been profiling some friends of his during a period where Bowie himself had done no interviews, and I had told these musician friends of his, “Boy, I would really like to interview David Bowie.” I was 16. So they were like, “Yeah. We’ll let David Bowie know you want to interview him.” So I went back home. I was sitting in my bedroom in San Diego, and the phone rang one night, and it was David Bowie. And he said, “I’m on a train, and I’m on my way from New York. I’ve just split with my manager. I don’t know that many people in Los Angeles. I’ll be getting in in a couple of days, and would you like to do an interview with me?” And I said, “Yes, I would. I really, really would.” He says, “Well, I’ll call you when I get to Los Angeles.” I was ready for it to be over at that point.
But Bowie followed through, and once he got to Los Angeles he rang Crowe up and offered him a once in a lifetime opportunity. Crowe continued,
He said, “Come up here. I’m staying at this house. Let’s meet, and let’s spend some time together,” and I spend six months straight with David Bowie at that time, the period with little breaks to go back to San Diego, but basically I was in this whirlwind with him in the period between “Young Americans” and “Station to Station.” And thank goodness I kept notes on every aspect of it. There were no limits. Everything was discussed. He said, “Ask me anything. Watch me create. Watch me produce. Watch me sad. Watch me happy.” And it was an incredibly vital experience because he said, “You can do this story for whoever you want.”
So everybody wanted the story, so it was a great help for my career then. But the amazing thing that I come away with is that even then, which was kind of a wild period in his life, he was always obsessed with music and art and never the business.
Crowe ended up writing about Bowie for Rolling Stone, Playboy, and Cream Magazine. It was obviously a huge career boost for a young writer, but Crowe also reflected on how Bowie’s creative integrity had such a massive influence on modern culture.
David Bowie’s impact is so huge in that he presents himself now as a role model to artists that may need to remember that it’s not about branding. It’s about a restless need to be creative and to continue being creative, and David Bowie was the antibranding artist, and for a young musician or artist of any kind, anybody coming up, it’s great to look to Bowie and see that seismic effect he’s had on people, not because he kept doing the same thing that worked again and again, but because he always shook it up and he always served the gods of creativity, and that was the lesson I got from him then and today.
Finally, Crowe meditated on how Bowie’s works continue to influence us today and the way that music can have a genuine and lasting impact on those who love it.
I think if you just look at the outpouring of emotion over David Bowie, you know it’s not nostalgic. People are driven by music…There’s no other way to be inspired that is like music, the way music can change a situation, a life or relationship. It’s like, I just wanted to do tell these stories with people that I knew who loved music that are about music is great. Music is there everywhere for you to find. If you don’t find it, it finds you.
Ultimately, Crowe gave a touching tribute to an artist we all loved and will miss very much. I felt pretty lucky to be in the room to hear the tale first hand and thought I’d share it with you, dear readers. With his latest endeavour, Roadies, Crowe wanted to tell another story celebrating the power of music and the people who love it. The series debuts on Showtime later this year.