David Bowie was born in Brixton, London, England back in 1947 and started his musical career at a young age in 1962. His self-titled solo debut album was released five years later, in 1967 and it was especially in the 70s that his career really took off with the release of classic albums like “The Man Who Sold The World”, “Hunky Dory” and “The Rise and Fall of Ziggy Stardust and the Spiders From Mars”.
Over the decades he talked about many of his peers and gave his opinion on their music. One of them was the legendary American musician Bruce Springsteen, that Bowie had a big respect and even said he was a great writer.
The Bruce Springsteen song that David Bowie said he loved
By the time Bruce Springsteen released his first album “Greetings from Asbury Park, N.J.” (1973), Bowie already had five albums on his discography and was about to release the classic “The Rise and Fall of Ziggy Stardust and The Spiders From Mars”.
Although the kind of music the two artists made were not very similar most of the times, Bowie appreacited Springsteen and even praised him as a writer once. Back in 1979, the British artist was asked to list some of his favorite songs to be played on a radio show made available by Raised On Radio (Transcribed by Rock and Roll Garage). One of the songs that he choose was Springsteen’s “It’s Hard To Be A Saint In The City” from his debut record “Greetings from Asbury Park, N.J.” (1973).
“Here is a great writer and I don’t like what he is doing very much now. I loved this album when it came out. It was ‘Greetings from Asbury Park, N.J.’ and after I heard this track I never rode the subway again. It’s called ‘It’s Hard To Be A Saint In The City’. That really scared the living ones out of me,” David Bowie said.
Bowie noted in the interview with the radio station in 1979 that he wasn’t a big fan of what Springsteen was composing at the late 70s. But his most recent records at the time were “Born To Run” (1975) and “Darkness on the Edge of Town” (1978). Those two albums had multiple hits that became some of the most famous songs of his career.
Bowie covered two Springsteen songs
Curiously, Bowie had the chance to cover that track a few decades later, appearing for the first time on the box set “Sound + Vision” in 1989.
The track also was featured of Springsteen’s tribute album “One Step Up/ Two Steps Back”, released in 1997. Besides Bowie, that record also had covers made by Joe Cocker, Richie Havens, Ben E. King, Allan Clarke and The Knack.
But that wasn’t the only Springsteen song covered by Bowie. In 1990, he included a version for “Growin’ Up”, also from the American’s first album, on the re-release of the record “Pin-Ups”.
David Bowie said that Springsteen’s band was the best one he saw in his life at the time
Even though he was touring and recording a lot in the early 70s, Bowie had the chance to watch Springsteen performing live in 1973. In the same year the American musician released his debut record. At the time, “The Boss” was the opening act of Biff Rose at Max’s Kansas City in New York. He recalled that moment in an interview Musician magazine back in 1987.
“I used to go and see him. I hated him as a solo artist, when he came on and did this Bob Dylan thing. It was awful. So cringe-making. He’d sit there with his guitar and be folky, have these slow philosophical raps in between the songs. As soon as the band came on, it was like a different performer and he was just marvelous.”
He had told the same story in a conversation with WNEW-FM 102.7 back in 1986 (Transcribed by Rock and Roll Garage). Even said that he thought that Springsteen’s group was the best one he saw at that moment in his life. “It must have been 1974. He was playing on his own, he was just playing the piano. Then he brought the band on about halfway through. I was gonna leave, I went there to see Biff Rose.”
David Bowie continued:
“I liked Biff Rose from the 60s and I found that he was playing in town. So he was the headliner act and Springsteen was sort of on as well. I thought he was sort of another Dylan copy when he came on and started his acoustic set. Then the band came on and I think it was probably the best Rock band I’ve ever seen in my life for about half an hour,” David Bowie said.
Bruce Springsteen paid tribute to David Bowie live on his concert after the musician’s death
David Bowie died back January, 2016 at the age of 69, victim of liver cancer. A few weeks later during his concert in Pittsburgh, Springsteen paid tribute to his late friend. He peformed the Bowie hit “Rebel, Rebel”.
Before playing the song, the musician said (Transcribed by Rock and Roll Garage): “I just wanna take a moment and note the passing of our great good friend David Bowie. David supported our music way, way back in the very beginning in 1973. He rang me up and I visited him when he was making the ‘Young Americans’ record. And he covered some of our music, “Growin’ Up”, “It’s Hard To Be A Saint In The City”. He was a good supporter of ours,” Bruce Springsteen said.