Stardust Memories / Without Tibet House, David Bowie never may have gotten Ziggy with it. Now the pop star returns the favor by performing at the annual benefit concert.
W ITHOUT TIBET HOUSE, there may never have been a David
Young David Jones was 13 when he developed an interest in Buddhism after
reading "The Rampa Story" by T. Lobsang Rampa. Over the next four years, his
interest in Buddhism and Tibet grew until he was visiting the Tibet House in
London up to four times a week.
"One day, I walked into the office and it was empty," Bowie said, calling
from his New York office. "I went down the stairs and saw a man in saffron
robes. He said, in very broken English, 'You are looking for me.' I realized
years later that it was a question, but as a 16-year-old, I took it as a
statement: 'You are looking for me.'"
The man in the saffron robes, Chime Yong Dong Rinpoche, became Jones' guru
for several months.
"After a few months of study, he told me, 'You don't want to be Buddhist,'"
Bowie said. "He said, 'You should follow music.'"
That is what he did. Since his debut in 1966, David Bowie, who changed his
name after Davy Jones of the Monkees became popular, has been one of rock's
biggest stars, while still pushing the artistic envelope. The Rock and Roll
Hall of Famer has topped the charts consistently since 1969 with his first hit,
"Space Oddity." It continues today, as his song "Thursday's Child" was
nominated for a Grammy this year for best male rock vocal.
Bowie jumped at the chance to be part of this year's Tibet House benefit at
Carnegie Hall on Monday. The concert-which includes composer Philip Glass,
Gomang Tibetan monks and international artists such as Rahat Nusrat Fateh Ali
Khan-will raise funds for the organization, which preserves and showcases
Tibetan culture and traditions.
The timing seemed right, Bowie said.
"Certain experiences, like spiritual messages, float through your life,"
Bowie said. "Probably in the last year I have become more aware of that, not
from a spiritual standpoint, really, but from the teachings. I have always
followed some of the tenets of Buddhism, especially the one about change. What
came from my Buddhist bumblings is that change is our river. I keep coming back
to that, and it means an awful lot to me."
The way Glass, who is the show's artistic director, handles the concert
also attracted Bowie.
"It has a low profile," Bowie said. "Given the nature of the artists, it
sells out, but it's not a trumpet-blowing thing. It's a very comfortable
Bowie plans to perform "Silly Boy Blue," one of the first songs he ever
wrote, at the benefit. His backing band will feature Glass on keyboards, Moby
on guitar and longtime collaborator and producer Tony Visconti on bass.
Bowie's Tibet House appearance will likely be his sole performance of 2001,
since he plans to spend much of the year at home with his wife, Iman, and
their 6-month-old daughter, Alexandria Zahra.
"I missed so much of my son's early years because I was on the road," Bowie
said, referring to his son Zowie, 29. "It's so wonderful to be home. I'm
reacting like every other father. I have no unique perspective on the
situation. It's wonderful."
While at home, though, Bowie is working on a new album, the follow-up to
"Hours," which looked back to his earlier work. Last year, he released "Bowie
at the Beeb," a three-CD set from the BBC archives between 1968 and 1972.
However, Bowie is not focused on his past.
"It's a confluence of events that make it seem that way," Bowie said. "The
cause has been the millennium. Part of it is the label's enthusiasm for the
and part is mine to look back. But I am working on quite new material that
More than any other contemporary artist, Bowie can gallop ahead of pop
culture or be part of a moment, depending on his will. He has also been at the
forefront of the Internet revolution, creating his own online service,
BowieNet, and helping build a new type of community with his fans. Members of
his service were treated to an exclusive concert last year, and he sees it as a
new way to get music to listeners.
His music already has helped create the genres of glam rock, new wave and,
most recently, electronica. Though not really a commercial success, the sound
he helped fashion in 1997 with his "Earthling" CD and songs such as "Little
"The new album will be more experimental," Bowie said. "It's time I crept
out there again."
What will it sound like?
"That's much too hard to say," he said, laughing. "It will be spontaneous
-planned accidents. Hopefully, it will be a vibrant, exciting tapestry and
inhabit its own world when it's done. That's what I hope for all my albums,
that they create some sort of alternative reality."
Bowie hopes his appearance at the Tibet House benefit is a way to help
honor the Buddhists who helped him in his formative years. It is also a way for
him to lend his support to the cause of protecting the Tibetan culture.
"It's always held a special meaning for me, though I don't talk about it
much," Bowie said. "It is important to protect all cultures and keep
recapturing pieces of peoples' history."
WHERE&WHEN The Tibet House Benefit at Carnegie Hall, 57th Street and
Seventh Avenue, Manhattan, Monday at 7:30 p.m. The concert is sold out. For
more information, call Tibet House, 212-807-0563.