Dennis Davis, former long-time drummer of David Bowie, has died of cancer. Dennis played on seven Bowie albums in total, including Young Americans, Station to Station, Low, “Heroes”, Lodger, and Scary Monsters (And Super Creeps) – and played as part of his live band in the early 2000s. He also played on Iggy Pop’s The Idiot, Jemaine Jackson’s Let’s Get Serious, and a number of Stevie Wonder albums, among many others.
He was born in Manhattan, before studying drums with Max Roach and Elvin Jones. In 1967, he joined the Clark Terry Big Band, before performing as part of the US Navy’s Drum and Bugle Corps in the Vietnam war. Later, he would return to join the Roy Ayers’ band, before coming to the attention of Bowie and a number of other huge stars.
Producer Tony Visconti spoke out in tribute: “Dennis Davis has passed away. He was one of the most creative drummers I have ever worked with. He came into David Bowie’s life when we recorded some extra tracks for Young Americans and stayed with us through Scary Monsters and beyond. He was a disciplined jazz drummer who tore into Rock with a Jazz sensibility. Listen to the drum breaks on Black Out from the Heroes album. He had a conga drum as part of his set up and he made it sound like two musicians were playing drums and congas. By Scary Monsters he was playing parts that were unthinkable but they fit in so perfectly. His sense of humor was wonderful. As an ex member of the US Air Force he told us stories of seeing a crashed UFO first hand by accidentally walking through an unauthorized hanger. There will never be another drummer, human being and friend like Dennis, a magical man.”
Shared on David Bowie’s Facebook, former Bowie guitarist Carlos Amos said: “Thank you all for your prayers and thoughts for Dennis Davis. He has passed on and released from this mortal coil. Our condolences to his family, his wife Chie Davis and children Darien, Naoto, Erika, Kaito and Hikaru. Dennis was my childhood friend and part of Bowie’s D.A.M. Trio (Dennis Davis – Drums, Carlos Alomar – Rhythm Guitar and George Murray – Bass). I was proud to be with him till the end. We laughed and enjoyed each other’s company always. Rest in peace my friend.”
Bassist Gail Ann Dorsey added: “And this one takes on a more personal sentiment… Sterling Campbell called me this morning to inform me that we had lost yet another member of the David Bowie musical family, drummer Dennis Davis. Although Dennis was well before my time in the Bowie line up, I had the great honour and pleasure of getting to meet him during my early years with David, and prior to that, like the rest of the world, the pleasure and privilege of listening to and enjoying his most exceptional musical talents…
“In my humble (and perhaps ill-informed, so please forgive me if that is the case) opinion, Dennis has been disappointingly over-looked and not nearly as recognized and highly regarded as some of his peers, for the uniqueness, creativeness, and sensitivity that he brought to some of Bowie’s most iconic and brilliant works, few drummers, if any, could ever surpass. Yes, it’s hard not to feel pretty bummed out these days… Folks my age or older are being forced to recognize the reality that we are in the final chapters of our story as opposed to the early ones. I think it best we remember that we are still the writers of our story, and although we know that it will eventually have to have an ending, we can still make the plot, theme, characters, and events as joyful, vibrant, and enlightening as we wish them to be.”
“Personally, I am now going to pull out my Bowie albums and crank my favourite Dennis Davis moments to the heavens! If you will, do the same, and join me in appreciation and celebration for one of Bowie’s brightest collaborators, and a great contributor to the world of popular music… Rest In Peace, Dear Dennis. We Love You, Man…”