David Bowie and U2: Friendship Once it’s Won

None of us should be surprised that U2 has a strong connection to David Bowie, who is gone too soon this week at age 69. We all know that the band chose “Space Oddity” as the unofficial theme song of the 360 Tour seven years ago (yes, it’s been that long! Thanks to Deena from On the Road with U2 for this fun compilation from all 16 US shows in 2011, the final leg).

But the friendship between U2 and David Bowie goes back decades, and their respect and admiration for him goes back even further. In the book U2 by U2, Bono wrote that when he was a teenager…

“One thing I really liked on the reel-to-reel was a folky duo called Hunky Dory. I loved that duo. It was years later I discovered it was David Bowie and Hunky Dory was the name of the album.”

In fact, Bowie had such an early impact on U2 that they included him on the first (albeit short-lived) intermission video on the tour along with other U2 influences like Iggy Pop, The Clash, Patti Smith and Joy Division. (We all know what I mean when I say “the tour,” but for those who just stumbled across this because they googled “David Bowie and U2,” I’ll clarify that it refers to the Innocence + Experience Tour).

Although this is a quick, not-a-lot-of-time-to-research piece that doesn’t include as much as it should about U2’s relationship with David Bowie, the collage I curated above portrays a very touching history that the band (specifically Bono and Edge) had with him through the years. One of the photos was taken at David’s wedding to Iman, with a very-much Fly persona Bono huddled in with the happy couple, Yoko Ono and Brian Eno. Speaking of Eno, he wrote a lovely tribute to Bowie today that states an email he received from David last week made it clear he was “saying goodbye.” And of course, U2 tweeted this from Bono himself.

Now for the fun part: First, this video of Bono and Edge performing Bowie’s “Let’s Dance” with Nile Rogers, who played on the original recording of the song and co-produced the album of the same title (which also features Bowie favorites “Modern Love” and “China Girl”). This performance totally made me cry because my husband sings this song to me on karaoke like every 2 years, which tells you how often we do karaoke.

Next, we have Bono’s David Bowie playlist! It was published in the December 2010 issue of Rolling Stone. Enjoy!


“What I’ve chosen from David Bowie is very strict. It’s my teenage life as a Bowie fan. I am still a Bowie fan. But this was when my heart and mind were very vulnerable to music. And these songs had a real impact. U2 owe him a lot. He introduced us to Berlin and Hansa Studios, to collaborating with Brian Eno. It’s the high singing, beyond your ‘man’ voice into the feminine. And there’s the staging, the attempt to be innovative. It has been pointed out that the Claw [the 360° Tour stage] looks like the Glass Spider. Bowie wasn’t afraid to use scale, to dramatize things. His set list was not just a jukebox he could run through. It was drama.” – Bono

1. Space Oddity

2. The Man Who Sold The World

3. Changes

4. Five Years

5. Life On Mars

6. Starman

7. Lady Grinning Soul

8. The Jean Genie

9. John, I’m Only Dancing

10. Young Americans

11. Fame

12. Warszawa

13. Heroes

14. Ashes To Ashes

15. Up The Hill Backwards

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U2 community builder, actualist, sometimes full of anger and grieving. Contact: IG @brookwf, X @U2radiobrook.

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