Mike Garson

Friday, March 25, 2016
I've been posting interesting interviews, videos and sound files related to David Bowie. Here are some highlights:

1973 - Hammersmith
I was so nervous at the Hammersmith Odeon in London on July of 1973 when David had me open his show by myself on solo piano playing his songs in front of this crowd...

1973 - "Pretty Things"

What fun to hear this song. I forgot I had even played on it. Prior to my joining the band, David used to play this one on the piano. I can hear some of my funny jazzy licks, which of course were never done before on that song, combined with my standard rock pop piano playing when the chorus comes. Such wonderful memories. I hope you enjoy...

1973 - Radio City Music Hall, The Garson Band

I wanted to share even more footage from the Midnight Special program with you now. Yes, I'm on this. I can't be seen but heard. Not a great recording sonically - but great remembrances of that 1980 Floor Show from back in 1973.

October 1974 - Radio City Music Hall, The Garson Band

Well this video brings back some great memories. Conducting the band is not my normal default - it's amazing to see myself, and doing that, from way back when. I'm also reminded that I had a pretty nice head of hair back then. Perhaps I should invest in a nice wig?

1975 - "It's Gonna Be Me"
"It's Gonna Be Me" was a bonus track from the Young Americans album. It's very deep. Very naked. This mix was really just piano, bass and drums. Then strings. Then background vocals. Listen to the wonderful background vocals led by the great Luther Vandross. Who knew where his amazing career would end up going.

December 1984 - Dick Cavett Show, "1984"
This is a wonderful version of "1984" on a great and important show when I was both music director and pianist - filmed in New York in November of 1974 for The Dick Cavett Show. I can't be seen much in this one which was fairly common due to my positioning. I got used to that - as long as I could be heard!

1995 - "My Death"
David and I took a trip to New York on a day off of the Outside tour to play this song at a fundraising event at the Manhattan Center in 1995. There were so many great performances throughout the evening but David just tore the house down with this most riveting performance of "My Death." If this isn't simplicity and spellbinding at the same time than I don't know what is. No one ever performed this great work by Jacque Brel better than David. I must have performed this with him in many different scenarios more than fifty times - but this one just floors me.

1995 - Outside Tour Rehearsal Footage

Here's some rehearsal footage from 1995 during preparations for the Outside tour. Our rehearsals were pure joy. Great focus. Great humor. Great attention to detail. I am proud to have been able to see the amazing unfolding of our music and to have had the time with those beautiful musicians led by our fearless leader named David.

1995 - "Small Plot of Land"

This version of "Small Plot of Land" came from a private fundraiser. It was just David and me. We actually left the band in Canada in the middle of the tour on a day off and flew to New York City together to perform this and "My Death." This piece is as outside as it gets. All the other performers that night were doing all sorts of commercial stuff. Then David came on stage and performed this. I recall many celebrities there and they were all stunned. We got a standing ovation. You won't be singing this in the shower but I think it's very cool.

September 1995 - "The Hearts Filthy Lesson"
I cowrote "The Hearts Filthy Lesson" with David and the rest of the band when we were in Switzerland doing the Outside album. It's a great tune - and the final song in the movie Seven, with Brad Pitt. This is a performance of that song we did for The Late Show with David Letterman back in September 1995.

September 1995 - "A Small Plot of Land"

"A Small Plot of Land" was very OUTSIDE and the piano part has a remembrance of "Aladdin Sane." It starts with just piano and drums. No other rock artist would dare to do that - especially with how avant grade I played. David was one brave man.

June 22, 1996 - "Aladdin Sane"

There are very few live performances of "Aladdin Sane" available. I think this one was pretty cool.

1997 - "My Death"

It's hard to believe that we performed this 19 years ago. This was for the GQ Awards in 1997 and the sound was quite good. It's one of the jazziest arrangements we ever did as a band and it's also fairly long.

Reeves plays such amazingly creative guitar on this. Zach is as solid as they come on drums with such a great feel. Our beautiful Gail has the simplest but most deep grooves and pockets that can exist in the bass world.

My piano playing was jazzier than normal. If there ever was a question of jazz elements in David's music - well, I was doing that as early as 1972. And heavily on the Outside and Earthling albums which were totally underrated, as well as Disco King on the Reality album. Whoever thought jazz didn't appear in Bowie's world until Blackstar must have been having a brain freeze.

January 1997 - "The Voyeur of Utter Destruction"

I love this song, "The Voyeur of Utter Destruction" from Outside. The piano gets several solos between the voice and I always had a ball searching for my next improv. The band was so good - so I just couldn't do anything wrong. Of course, the whole show was spectacular.

April 1997 - "Dead Man Walking"
I love this song, "Dead Man Walking" from Earthling. Once again David allowed me so much space to create piano parts that were never heard in rock before. I'm eternally grateful.

1999 - "Something in the Air" and "Seven"

Both of these songs got totally overlooked.

"Something in the Air" is one of David's greatest songs.

For those who know her, you can hear the great Annette Peacock's influence on David. She's an avant garde singer who recommended me to him for the first Spiders From Mars tour in America. I played on her album, I'm The One, before meeting David. Both he and Mick Ronson loved her artistry. She's an unsung hero.

On "Seven," I'm playing strings instead of piano as I felt it was more supportive. It's a very touching song. One could never say David was shallow!

August 1999 - "Word on a Wing"

I really enjoyed playing this song with David as I felt it to be a very deep song and a cry for help. I hope he gets many of his questions answered now.

October 1999 - "Life on Mars"
Another great Life on Mars. Maybe the best one?

October 1999 - "China Girl"

Here's a performance of China Girl. It was an acoustic type show and David asked me to create this quite unexpected arrangement - a new introduction of piano and voice. I hope you enjoy...

2000 - "Wild is the Wind"

"Wild is the Wind" has a vocal that's beyond beautiful. I loved this performance back in 2000, when we performed it live, and I still love it now.

June 2000 - Roseland

This was a very cool concert in New York City at Roseland . I started off, tongue in cheek, on the piano playing the old jazz standard "How About You?" as its first line is "I love New York in June, how about you?" This was a special concert for me as it was my home city. It's a great archive of one of hundreds of concerts. For the real Bowie lovers it's another window into a genius. This footage is from David's son, Duncan who once admitted to me that he was petrified of my "Aladdin Sane" piano solo and that they gave him nightmares.

2000 - "Changes"
This is such a great version of "Changes." David was really in rare form. He looked and sang great. Glastonbury was amazing. Boy do I miss making music with him. This is going to be a long recovery. I guess if there is one lesson to be learned it's to never take anything for granted.

2001 - "Conversation Piece"
This is one of the most beautiful pieces David ever wrote. He recorded it in the sixties but we recorded it again. This song is so gorgeous.

2002 - "Life on Mars"
This was from an English talk show in 2002. I recall Tom Hanks on the show loving David's performance. I've forgotten how many times we performed this song. Each one was magical and I wish we could have done so many more. David's impact is really only just beginning to be understood due to the fact that he was so ahead of his time. I hope you enjoy this. I certainly did when we performed it.

2002 - Friday Night With Ross

This was a magical program.

2002 - "Slip Away"
This piece, "Slip Away" from David's Heathen album, is exquisite.

2003 - "Hang On to Yourself"
While you can't really hear the piano on this song, as it's truly guitar heavy, the warm banter with David and myself is priceless. Please enjoy..

2003 - "Bring Me the Disco King"
This song never ceases to haunt me. We had done three versions of this song over ten years but this one really satisfied David. It's very sparse with piano and voice and a two bar drum loop. I hope the other more elaborate versions get released some day.

November 2006 - David's Final Public American Performance
I was lucky enough and so proud to have been able to perform with David Bowie in his first live American performance as well as what I now realize was his last public American performance.

2011 - "A Tribute to David"
The best way to express my sorrow is through music. This song, "A Tribute to David," is very important to me. I recorded it in 2011 for my Bowie Variations album and haven't performed it since. While the whole album was variations on David's music, this one meant the most to me because I wrote it for him. It's how I felt about David in musical terms. 

2014 - "Space Oddity"
"Space Oddity" has always been close to my heart. I did this arrangement for a children's choir and small orchestra a few years ago and it has so much depth and feeling that it feels like I did it just this morning. 

January 14, 2016 - McIntyre in the Morning Interview
I spoke with Doug McIntyre on KABC's McIntyre in the Morning about David Bowie on January 14, 2016.

January 16, 2016 - Periscope Tribute to David
I did this live Periscope broadcast to celebrate the life and work of David Bowie where I shared some memories and played a rendition of "Space Oddity" as well as a new tribute to David - improvised live during the broadcast. I've also made available the audio tracks to my renditions of Space Oddity and the new Tribute to David.

January 20, 2016 - KPFK Interview
I performed live and shared stories about the life and artistry of David Bowie with host Maggie LePique on January 20, 2016 on KPFK radio in Los Angeles. Here's that portion of the program as well as the individual tracks within the program I played live.

January 23, 2016 - KLOS Interview
I did this interview with KLOS Los Angeles while performing at NAMM 2016.

January 30, 2016 - Periscope Tribute to David
I did this live Periscope broadcast to celebrate the life and work of David Bowie where I shared some memories and played a rendition of "Life on Mars.

Monday, March 14, 2016

Jacob is 12 years old. He is one wonder of my seven grandchildren. We started him on piano lessons and, while it didn't seem like he had any music in him, he was willing to do the work each day. Within three months he knew all of his chords and scales. Now, two years later, he's composing pieces. Here he performs on piano a piece he wrote for me for my birthday called "Seventy Everything" in his first ever public performance.

I am a firm believer that not only should children be listening to music, but they should be actively playing an instrument. I hope you enjoy his performance because the time has come to start passing the torch. Not that I'm going anywhere. We've had enough people leave us recently. I have some work to do...

"Lullaby for Our Daughters" is a piece I wrote in the mid-90s for my two daughters, Jennifer and Heather. This song is in my top five out of the thousands of pieces I've written. Even though the song is ultra simple it really seems to nail the essence of my two girls. This particular version of the song came from a performance I gave about 10 years ago. I've been teaching it to Jacob over the last year and while he's mastered about 70% of it, I still want to share this performance with you today. In six months, when he's at 100%, I'll share with you his new version. Please enjoy... Watch Jacob's performance...

Saturday, March 12, 2016
I was deeply saddened by the passing of Keith Emerson. It has been a very difficult few months. We've lost several giants. This is a very short but potent homage I wrote for Keith several years ago. I am so sorry that I never got to share it with him. He was a giant as a pianist, organist and synthesist. His playing was outstanding and he gave us so much great music for nearly fifty years.
Listen to the song...

Wednesday, February 24, 2016
The experience of playing again at the Brits after eleven years with my old bandmates Sterling, Cat, Gerry, Gail and Earl was surreal. Everyone there but David. We wouldn't have been able to perform If hadn't had all of our full focus on that performance. We held back so many tears. To honor David with Lorde's performance and the band's arrangement was so gratifying. I hope it was cathartic for the whole planet. As a band, we practiced for at least 100 hours for that six minute performance. We only wanted to do justice to David. I hope we did.
Read more and watch the video...

Monday, February 8, 2016
"The emotional core of the evening, though, came from longtime Bowie keyboardist Mike Garson, who nearly broke into tears explaining his year's-long kinship with the late legend whom he said slept directly across from him on the tour bus. After delivering what amounted to a eulogy, Garson played on "Aladdin Sane" -- including his famous avant-solo, for the first time in 20 years -- and stayed onstage for both an improvised ode to Bowie and a surprise appearance from crooner Seal, who sang the obscure, jazzy track "Bring Me The Disco King." Garson -- who popped in and out for the rest of the set -- seemed like he was having a going-away party for his friend." - Billboard Magazine, February 9, 2016
Watch the video...

Monday, February 1, 2016
Many of you have asked me about my life, how I began my career and met David. Here's how it happened:

BROOKLYN, NEW YORK, ONE HOT AUTUMN NIGHT in 1972. A struggling young jazz musician had just completed another small club gig in his hometown. He returned to his wife and baby in their cramped apartment with just a few dollars payment for having worked his usual magic up and down the black and white keys of the piano all night.

He was frustrated. The rewards were disproportionate to the effort and creativity he devoted to it. The five dollars in his pocket was not enough to feed three people until the next gig. There was only one way to play a show, he had to throw his all into it. Whilst playing, he did not care about what he was paid because his was a labour of love. But how could he provide for his family this way? So this time, Mike Garson entered the apartment and announced to his wife, Susan, that he had to find something else to do, something bigger and more lucrative. Of course, he had to continue playing, by now it was second nature to him. But he had to find some way to raise the stakes and the scale of his work. That night they slept fitfully as this grim reality descended on the Garson household. Read the rest here.

Excerpt courtesy of "Bowie's Piano Man: The Life of Mike Garson" by Clifford Slapper (Fantom, 2015)


Monday, Janaury 11, 2016
My deepest condolences are with David's family - Iman, Lexi and Duncan. The music we shared through the years is eternal and so is David and another beautiful spiritual phase awaits David. My love to you all. The best way to express my sorrow is through music. This song, "A Tribute to David," is very important to me. I recorded it in 2011 for my Bowie Variations album and haven't performed it since. While the whole album was variations on David's music, this one meant the most to me because I wrote it for him. It's how I felt about David in musical terms. Though there's no doubt I have more music for David coming, this is what I have to offer now:

Monday, December 29, 2014
For the past five years, writer and fellow pianist Clifford Slapper has been working on Mike's first ever biography, with his close collaboration. BOWIE'S PIANO MAN - THE LIFE OF MIKE GARSON is a fully authorized biography, candidly exploring Mike's life and work - looking in detail at his approach to creativity and life in general.

Buyers in the UK - for Kindle and Hardback, please click here.

Buyers in the USA and elsewhere - for Kindle and Hardback, please click here.

Kornél Fekete-Kovács and the Modern Art Orchestra
Kornél Fekete-Kovács and the Modern Art Orchestra Wednesday, October 8, 2014
The New West Symphony has collaborated with Mike to present a world premiere of his new jazz viola concerto in January 2015. You can find out more about, and back the project, here.

Monday, October 6, 2014
Mike collaborated once again with longtime friend Trent Reznor for a song in the film Gone Girl, staring Ben Affeck, which opened on Friday and was the number one movie this pastweekend. One of the cues Trent had written for the film is "Just Like You," a very haunting song with synths and piano He asked Mike to develop from the theme he created - but in Mike's way, for solo piano. Read about the collaboration here.
Mike and Trent Reznor

Kornél Fekete-Kovács and the Modern Art Orchestra Wednesday, September 17, 2014
Mike will be performing in with Kornél Fekete-Kovács and the Modern Art Orchestra this Sunday, September 21 at the Soka Performing Arts Center in Aliso Viejo, California. Of the performance, Mike recalls, "I arranged 'Satin Doll' and my song 'Lullaby for Our Daughters' for Kornel's big band. In response, he chose his two hardest pieces for me, therefore I must return to the piano!" Purchase ticket and find out more information.

Thursday, September 11, 2014
Experience Mike's arrangement of Dave Brubeck's "Blue Rondo à la Turk" which was performed at Segerstrom Hall on March 1, 2014 prior to the premiere of his "Symphonic Suite For Healing."

Kornél Fekete-Kovács and the Modern Art Orchestra

  Thursday, August 21, 2014
Mike wrote this piece in 2008 when his piano was being tuned and left the felts deadening its strings as he composed. Says Mike, "It's the quietest piece I've ever written."

  Tuesday, August 12, 2014
A note from Mike:

Robin Williams was my favorite comedian. 

Like the rest of the world, I admired Robin and the work he created. After hearing of his passing my thoughts turned to a sonata I wrote for him in 1999 after being so moved by his cumulative legacy. I wanted terribly to get this song to him at the time but had no idea how to as I'd have been just one of his millions of fans. 

In any case, today I share that song I wrote for Robin with the world. It's a classical piece - one that may not be easily digested. I hope I was able to tap into his brilliance... and perhaps some of the pain.