January 21, 2016

Dwight Yoakam Names His Top Five David Bowie Songs


It may seem like an odd pairing, but despite some pretty vast differences Dwight Yoakam and David Bowie do have some things in common.

Yoakam is a pioneering country music star from Kentucky who’s known for his honky tonk/cowpunk tunes and tight, flared and faded blue jeans and his role as Doyle Hargraves in the 1996 drama “Sling Blade.” 

Bowie was a beloved English international superstar, a music chameleon embedded in pop culture for over five decades and who starred as the Goblin King in 1986’s “Labyrinth.”

Both artists had a hunger for music and cinema, and, as they would come to find, a mutual admiration for Elvis.


Though Yoakam is currently out on tour in support of his 19th studio album, “Second Hand Heart,” which came out last April, Bowie’s sudden passing last week was at the forefront of his mind. Soon after hearing the sad news, Yoakam said he put on and turned up the track “Rebel Rebel.”

“I love the guitars on that and took inspiration from that,” the 59-year-old said during a phone interview before he returns to City National Grove of Anaheim on Sunday. “He was an artist all the way until the end, purely and truly in every sense of the word. 

He should be an inspiration for all musical artists. He showed a lot of respect to the audience and was grateful for the gift that the artists are given in being able to make music and continue to have the opportunity to express themselves, of course in David’s case, to a massive and wide audience. It’s a lesson in just remembering to be grateful.”

Like so many others who helped Bowie’s final album, “Blackstar” – delivered just days before his death, reach No. 1 on the Billboard 200 chart for the first time in his extensive career, Yoakam sat and devoured every last song.

“Clearly he was aware at that point of his mortality throughout the process of creating ‘Blackstar,’” Yoakam said.

 “He did it all with such dignity and grace and I think that’s an absolutely overwhelming illustration of what the definition of an artist is, through and through and in David’s case, he did that all the way to his dying breath, he just kept giving art to audiences.”

Having been a fan for years, Yoakam finally got to meet Bowie after a show at the Hollywood Athletic Club during the British star’s Earthling Tour in 1997. The two kicked back and talked about Bowie working with Marc Bolan of T.Rex and Yoakam asked Bowie about Elvis, since he’s one of Yoakam’s influences and Bowie and the King shared the same birthday.

Bowie told him about the first time he saw Elvis perform live in 1971 and mentioned that just six months before Elvis’ death in 1977, the King had called him out of the blue to discuss Bowie possibly producing his next album.

“That was based on Elvis having heard Bowie’s ‘Golden Years’ and I thought ‘Oh my God, it’s a tragedy that he was never able to make that,’” Yoakam said. “I couldn’t even imagine 1977 David Bowie producing Elvis. It would have been fantastic. It has to be one of the greatest tragedies in pop music history that it didn’t happen, one of the biggest missed opportunities.”


Aside from having Bowie on his mind, Yoakam, who is a frequent player in Orange County, said he’s excited about bringing new music to Anaheim this time around. He’s already incorporated songs like the album title track “Second Hand Heart,” “Dreams of Clay” and a definite Elvis-inspired cut, “Liar,” into recent set lists.

Yoakam says what he plays on a given night depends on his mood. That could include the dancy new track “The Big Time,” which he’ll sometimes swap out for “A Heart Like Mine” off his 2012 record “3 Pears,” which was co-produced by Beck. Whatever he decides to throw in at the last minute, his solid brood of backing players is more than capable of keeping up.

“They’re pretty good about that,” he said with a laugh. “You know, in spite of me, they manage somehow.”

He and the band had a lot of fun filming the music video for “Liar” during rush hour traffic over the summer on the Sunset Strip, a place that holds significance for Yoakam’s 30-year career.

“We got funny looks from people,” he said about filming the video on the street during such a busy time of day. “We had a few near misses with Elliot James, who is playing all of the keyboards live now, he was hanging out of a car window playing tambourine and there were a couple of times we almost lost him. It was a real kick to do that all these years later, just down the street from the Whisky.”

During the filming for the video, Yoakam said that he realized it had been nearly three decades since the Roxy on the Sunset Strip had hosted his first record release party for his 1986 debut, “Guitars, Cadillacs, Etc., Etc.” That record featured his popular cover of Johnny Horton’s “Honky Tonk Man.” Since then, Yoakam has covered numerous artists, everyone from Elvis and Buck Owens to Queen and the Clash.

On “Second Hand Heart” he “punks out” the traditional American folk song “Man of Constant Sorrow” and put his own spin on Anthony Crawford’s “V’s of Birds,” a song he has yet to perform live off of the new album.
“I was in love with that song from the moment I heard it back in the mid-’90s,” Yoakam said of the latter cut. “It’s one of the only songs that I’ve come across that I’ve thought to myself, ‘Wow, why didn’t I think of that?’ The idea of looking up in the sky and seeing birds fly in that formation and headed south. It was one of the more literate lyrics that I had heard in a long time. So, I was always a bit envious of such an original kind of take on that phrase. It’s a very pretty song with a great melody.”

For now, however, Yoakam said he will continue to listen to a lot of Bowie, including his favorite, “Rebel Rebel,” followed by “Golden Years,” “Jean Genie,” “Heroes” and a rare B-side cover of Chuck Berry’s “Around and Around,” which Bowie recorded as “Round and Round” in the early ’70s.


“It would have been great to have been able to work with him,” Yoakam said, but much like Bowie’s collaboration with Elvis, “It just wasn’t to be.”

By Kelli Skye Fadroski

With many thanks to The Orange County Register 

More at The Guardian

Since Bowie’s death last week, another link with Elvis has been uncovered. An Elvis song called Black Star – which remained unreleased for decades after being recorded in 1960 – was cited as a possible inspiration for his farewell album. The song’s lyrics say: “Every man has a black star / A black star over his shoulder / And when a man sees his black star / He knows his time, his time has come.”


See also:
Remembering David Bowie

 Dixie: Elvis Presley — An Anthem Of The American South

Dwight Yoakam’s Rock Roots

Elvis Is Touring Australia In 2017, Sort Of

David Bowie's Personal Art Collection Auctioned Off For $30 Million