The late David Bowie knew his way around an acoustic guitar.
He favored the 12-string varieties of various European makers, American guitars being even more expensive back then. But he played 6-string guitars as well, particularly on his records.
He began his career as a psychedelic-folk troubadour rising out of the Dylan-tinged late ’60s before embracing the pre-punk Glamrock and ultimately moving ahead of the various new waves rolling across popular music, rather than riding or following them.
And while he always had a way with interesting chord progressions and creative and lively strumming, he also had a knack for employing exceptionally gifted lead guitar players.
His first U.S. album, Space Oddity (UK title David Bowie) features some wonderful acoustic guitar playing, by Bowie himself and a lead guitarist who was probably Keith Christmas.
The fills and leads on “Letter to Hermione” and “God Knows I’m Good” had a profound influence on my own guitar playing, even if it took me many years before I got out of cowboy chords.
And while David Bowie has featured monster electric guitarists like Carlos Alomar, Stevie Ray Vaughn, G.E. Smith, and Earl Slick, I will ever associate him with the late, great Mick Ronson. His true genius was somewhat stifled on the Bowie records, due to the production style in use, compared to the sheer power he brought to live performances, with rhythm full of hard rocking improvisation and extended solos of raw, unbridled sensuality and bravado. In some ways, I feel Bowie never topped the Spiders from Mars shows, when it came to full out rock n roll.
But Ronson’s acoustic guitar playing on Andy Warhol, from the Honky Dory album remains a wonderful no-nonsense performance of unplugged rock n roll.
David Bowie made it all seem so easy and effortless. But so too did the guitarists whose fingers danced in and around those countless, memorable songs.
So I am happy to take this time on an acoustic guitar blog to share some of those early acoustic guitar songs of the one and only David Bowie.
Letter to Hermione
God Knows I’m Good
More on the life and death of David Bowie HERE