David Bowie's close collaborators and friends reveal funny, poignant stories about the rock icon: 'We have lost one of our princes'

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E! Remembers the Late David Bowie in 1993


Since David Bowie passed away Jan. 10, tributes, testimonials, and first-hand accounts of his greatness have poured in about the music icon. Bowie touched many over his life, giving us plenty of voices across music, film, fashion, and more to join the chorus.

In Billboard's new issue, we pay tribute to the life and legacy of the inimitable musician. And we've spoken to those close to him -- early collaborators, friends from his wild '70s life, musicians who worked with him for decades -- about the impact he had on them both personally and professionally. It's a glimpse into the world of an unflinchingly independent artist, a good friend and a sensitive soul who overcame his own struggles. Read on for poignant recollections from those who knew him well at different phases of his storied life. "We have lost one of our princes -- it might be that he was just lost from space, but wherever he came from, he's gone back, and it's all our losses," says longtime guitarist Carlos Alomar.

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David Bowie through the years
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David Bowie's close collaborators and friends reveal funny, poignant stories about the rock icon: 'We have lost one of our princes'
FILE i In this Sept. 17, 1980, file photo, David Bowie listens during a news conference after a rehearsal at the Booth Theater in New York. Bowie was appearing in the Broadway production of "The Elephant Man." Bowie, the innovative and iconic singer whose illustrious career lasted five decades, died Monday, Jan. 11, 2016, after battling cancer for 18 months. He was 69. (AP Photo/Marty Lederhandler, FIle)
February 1970: Pop singer David Bowie at the 'Disc and Music Echo' Valentine Awards ceremony at the Cafe Royal in London. (Photo by Hulton Archive/Getty Images)
9th July 1973: Pop singer David Bowie prepares to do some mileage with British Rail. (Photo by Smith/Express/Getty Images)
David Bowie performing live in Berlin, Germany in the 1970's © RTNKent/MediaPunch Credit all uses /IPX
Portrait of David Bowie photographed at the Studio of artist Dante Leonoli in Hampstead, London in September 1969. © RTNBebbington / MediaPunch Credit all Uses/IPX
David Bowie © RTNLipson /MediaPunch/IPX
UNITED KINGDOM - JANUARY 07: NEWCASTLE CITY HALL Photo of David BOWIE, performing live onstage on Ziggy Stardust tour (Photo by Ian Dickson/Redferns)
FILE - This is an Oct. 1972 file photo of British singer David Bowie. Bowie, the other-worldly musician who broke pop and rock boundaries with his creative musicianship, nonconformity, striking visuals and a genre-bending persona he christened Ziggy Stardust, died of cancer Sunday Jan. 10, 2016. He was 69 and had just released a new album. (AP Photo/ File)
FILE - This is a Dec. 1, 1972 file photo of David Bowie in his Ziggy Stardust period pictured in Philadelphia. Bowie, the other-worldly musician who broke pop and rock boundaries with his creative musicianship, nonconformity, striking visuals and a genre-bending persona he christened Ziggy Stardust, died of cancer Sunday Jan. 10, 2016. He was 69 and had just released a new album. (AP Photo, Brian Horton, File)
LOS ANGELES - 1973: Musician David Bowie performs onstage during his 'Ziggy Stardust' era in 1973 in Los Angeles, California. (Photo by Michael Ochs Archives/Getty Images)
3rd July 1973: David Bowie on stage at the Hammersmith Odeon in London at the last of the Ziggy Stardust concerts. (Photo by Steve Wood/Express/Getty Images)
LONDON - MAY 12: David Bowie performs live on stage at Earls Court Arena on May 12 1973 during the Ziggy Stardust tour (Photo by Gijsbert Hanekroot/Redferns)
British rock singer David Bowie performs with an acoustic guitar on stage, in costume as 'Ziggy Stardust,' circa 1973. (Photo by Hulton Archive/Getty Images)
David Bowie (wearing an eyepatch) appears at a press conference at the Amstel Hotel on 7th February 1974 in Amsterdam, Netherlands. (Photo by Gijsbert Hanekroot/Redferns)
HILVERSUM, NETHERLANDS - FEBRUARY 13: David Bowie, with eye patch, performs ÂRebel Rebel in the Top Pop Studios, Hilversum, Netherlands on February 13 1974. (Photo by Gijsbert Hanekroot/Redferns)
1976: David Bowie poses for a portrait in 1976. (Photo by Michael Ochs Archives/Getty Images)
LONDON, ENGLAND - JANUARY 01: David Bowie wears sunglasses on in 1974 in London, England. (Photo by Anwar Hussein/Getty Images)
David Bowie performing on The Idiot World with Iggy Pop at the Tower Theatre. Philadelphia, PA. March 19th, 1977. © Scott Weiner / MediaPunch/IPX
DENMARK - APRIL 01: Photo of David BOWIE; ID#: BowieA 04, David Bowie, Copenhagen 1976 (Photo by Jorgen Angel/Redferns)
UNITED KINGDOM - JANUARY 07: NEWCASTLE CITY HALL Photo of David BOWIE, performing live onstage on Ziggy Stardust tour (Photo by Ian Dickson/Redferns)
British pop singer David Bowie in concert at Earl's Court, London during his 1978 world tour. (Photo by Evening Standard/Getty Images)
David Bowie is shown as he prepares for an appearance on ABC-TV's "Good Morning America", in New York, Sept. 3, 1980. (AP Photo/Dave Pickoff)
David Bowie photographed by White in 1980. © RTNWhite / MediaPunch/IPX
British rock singer David Bowie is photographed at a news conference to announce the signing of a multi-million dollar contract with EMI-America in Manhattan, New York City, on Jan. 27, 1983. (AP Photo)
Rock superstar David Bowie, making his first musical performance in America in half a decade, performs on stage at the U.S. Festival on May 31, 1983 at Glen Helen Regional Park in Devore, Calif. Bowie performed on closing night at the festival. (AP Photo/stf/Lennox McLendon)
A portrait taken on May 13, 1983 shows British singer David Bowie during a press conference at the 36th Cannes Film Festival. He is the main actor in Nagisa Oshima's film 'Furyo (Merry christmas Mr. Lawrence)', official selection in Cannes. He is also with French actress Catherine Deneuve maina ctor in Tony Scott's film 'The hunger' presented out competition at the festival. AFP PHOTO RALPH GATTI (Photo credit should read RALPH GATTI/AFP/Getty Images)
Paul McCartney, center, and his wife Linda McCartney, applaud David Bowie, left, and Bob Geldof, right, at the end of the London part of the Live Aid famine relief concert at Wembley Stadium, Saturday, July 13, 1985. At far left is Pete Townsend of The Who. The concert continued being broadcast around the world on TV from Philadelphia. (AP Photo/Joe Schaber))
Actors David Bowie and Jennifer Connelly in a scene from the movie 'Labyrinth', 1986. (Photo by Stanley Bielecki Movie Collection/Getty Images)
Rock stars David Bowie, left, and Peter Frampton are seen at a news conference in New York where Bowie announced his North American tour, March 18, 1987. (AP Photo/Richard Drew)
Musician David Bowie performs in concert circa 1987 in New York City. (Photo by L. Busacca/WireImage)
Rocker David Bowie, right, points to the hamburger that he wants for lunch during a barbecue for his crew at Veterans Stadium in Philadelphia, July 27, 1987. Bowie will kickoff the U.S. portion of his "Glass Spider" tour in Philadelphia this Thursday and Friday. (AP Photo/Charles Krupa)
Singer David Bowie performs before an estimated 61,000 fans Sept. 3, 1987 at Sullivan Stadium in Foxboro, Mass. (AP Photo/stf-Elise Amendola)
David Bowie, vocal, performs at the Ahoy hal in Rotterdam, the Netherlands on 30th March 1990. (Photo by Frans Schellekens/Redferns)
LONDON - 23rd JANUARY: David Bowie appears at a press conference to promote his Sound + Vision tour at the Rainbow Theatre in London on 23rd January 1990. (Photo by Rob Verhorst/Redferns)
Musician David Bowie and model Iman attend Seventh on Sale AIDS Benefit on November 29, 1990 at the Armory in New York City. (Photo by Ron Galella/WireImage)
UNITED KINGDOM - CIRCA 1991: David Bowie Concert And Party, Astoria Theatre, Club Top, Davidbowieretro (Photo by Dave Benett/Getty Images)
Annie Lennox and David Bowie perform 'Under Pressure' (Photo by Kevin Mazur Archive/WireImage)
SATURDAY NIGHT LIVE -- Episode 7 -- Aired 11/23/1991 -- Pictured: Musical guest David Bowie performs -- Photo by: Alan Singer/NBCU Photo Bank
THE TONIGHT SHOW WITH JAY LENO -- Episode 221 -- Pictured: (l-r) Musical guest David Bowie during an interview with host Jay Leno on May 10, 1993-- (Photo by: Margaret Norton/NBC/NBCU Photo Bank via Getty Images)
David Bowie (Photo by Ke.Mazur/WireImage)
FILE - In this Sept. 14, 1995, file photo, David Bowie performs in Hartford, Conn. Bowie, the innovative and iconic singer whose illustrious career lasted five decades, died Monday, Jan. 11, 2016, after battling cancer for 18 months. He was 69. (AP Photo/Bob Child, File)
Singers David Bowie (L) and Eric Clapton pose for photographers during the 1995 Q Music Awards in London 07 November. Clapton was decorated with the order of British Empire (OBE) at a Buckingham Palace ceremony 07 November. AFP PHOTO Sean DEMPSEY (Photo credit should read SEAN DEMPSEY/AFP/Getty Images)
Rock star David Bowie poses for photgraphers upon his arrival to a Tel Aviv airport Tuesday July 2, 1996. Bowie is in Israel as part of his European concert tour. (AP Photo/Nati Harnik)
UNITED STATES - JANUARY 09: MADISON SQUARE GARDEN Photo of David BOWIE, David Bowie performing at Madison Square Garden, New York City on 9th January 1996 (Photo by David Corio/Redferns)
David Bowie during David Bowie Honored with a Star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame at Hollywood Boulevard in Hollywood, California, United States. (Photo by Magma Agency/WireImage)
NETHERLANDS - JULY 16: Singer David Bowie performs on stage at the Ahoy in Rotterdam during the Outside tour on July 16, 1996. (Photo by Paul Bergen/Redferns)
(GERMANY OUT) (eigentlich David Robert Jones)*08.01.1947-Sänger, Musiker, Schauspieler, GrossbritannienKonzertauftritt- 1996 (Photo by Martin Lengemann/ullstein bild via Getty Images)
AMSTERDAM, NETHERLANDS - JUNE 10: David Bowie, vocal, performs at the Paradiso on 10th June 1997 in Amsterdam, Netherlands. (Photo by Frans Schellekens/Redferns)
David Bowie on the set of his new video " I'm Afraid of Americans" filming on the lower east side. 10/7/97 NYC © RTNDavila/ MediaPunch USA/IPX
Entertainer David Bowie performs during a concert celebrating his 50th birthday Thursday, Jan. 9, 1997, at Madison Square Garden in New York. (AP Photo/Ron Frehm)
NEW YORK - JANUARY 09 : Singer David Bowie performs on stage during his 50th birthday benefit concert held at Madison Square Garden in New York City on January 09, 1997. (Photo by George De Sota/Redferns)
Rock and roll legend David Bowie gestures to the crowd before receiving the 2,083rd star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame in the Hollywood section of Los Angeles, Wednesday, Feb. 12, 1997, as his wife, supermodel Iman, looks on. Bowie released his latest album, "Earthling," on Tuesday. (AP Photo/Chris Pizzello)
FILE - In this Jan. 9, 1997, file photo, David Bowie performs during a concert celebrating his 50th birthday, at Madison Square Garden in New York. Bowie, the innovative and iconic singer whose illustrious career lasted five decades, died Monday, Jan. 11, 2016, after battling cancer for 18 months. He was 69. (AP Photo/Ron Frehm, File)
FRANCE - OCTOBER 14: David Bowie In Concert Of Paris On October 14th, 1999 In Paris,France (Photo by Frederic REGLAIN/Gamma-Rapho via Getty Images)
LATE NIGHT WITH CONAN O'BRIEN -- Episode 1182 -- Air Date 11/16/1999 -- Pictured: Musical guest David Bowie performs on November 16, 1999 -- Photo by: Lesly Weiner/NBCU Photo Bank
David Bowie during David Bowie 'Reality Tour' at Madison Square Garden - Show at Madison Square Garden in New York City, New York, United States. (Photo by KMazur/WireImage)
David Bowie Performing At The Tweeter Centre, Boston, America - Aug 2002, David Bowie (Photo by Brian Rasic/Getty Images)
(FILES) In this file picture taken on September 24, 2002 British singer David Bowie performs during a concert at the Zenith in Paris. British rock icon David Bowie broke a decade-long musical silence on January 8, 2013, unveiling a new single to coincide with his 66th birthday and announcing that he will release an album in March. The outlandish star surprised fans by posting a video for the single, entitled 'Where are We Now?', on his website, and it will also be available to download on iTunes. AFP PHOTO MARTIN BUREAU (Photo credit should read MARTIN BUREAU/AFP/Getty Images)
FILE - In this June 3, 2002, file photo, Iman, left, and her husband, singer David Bowie arrive at the Council of Fashion Designers of America Fashion Awards in New York. Bowie, the innovative and iconic singer whose illustrious career lasted five decades, died Monday, Jan. 11, 2016, after battling cancer for 18 months. He was 69. (AP Photo/Suzanne Plunkett, File)
FILE - In this Dec. 15, 2003 file photo, singer/songwriter David Bowie launches his United States leg of his worldwide tour called "A Reality Tour," at Madison Square Garden in New York. Bowie, the innovative and iconic singer whose illustrious career lasted five decades, died Monday, Jan. 11, 2016, after battling cancer for 18 months. He was 69 (AP Photo/Kathy Willens, File)
David Bowie during David Bowie Performs on 'The Today Show' Summer Concert Series - September 18, 2003 at NBC Studios, Rockefeller Plaza in New York City, New York, United States. (Photo by James Devaney/WireImage)
NEWPORT, ENGLAND - JUNE 13: David Bowie performs on stage on the third and final day of 'The Nokia Isle of Wight Festival 2004' at Seaclose Park, on June 13, 2004 in Newport, UK. The third annual rock festival takes place during the Isle of Wight Festival which runs from June 4-19. (Photo by Jo Hale/Getty Images)
FILE - In this June 6, 2005 file photo, singer David Bowie and his wife Iman pose at the 2005 CFDA Fashion Awards in New York. Bowie, the innovative and iconic singer whose illustrious career lasted five decades, died Monday, Jan. 11, 2015, after battling cancer for 18 months. He was 69 (AP Photo/Stuart Ramson, File)
NEW YORK - OCTOBER 18: Model Iman and musician David Bowie arrive at the party for Iman's new book 'The Beauty of Color' hosted by Naomi Campbell October 18, 2005 in New York City. (Photo by Bryan Bedder/Getty Images)
NEW YORK - APRIL 26: Singer David Bowie attends the Vanity Fair Tribeca Film Festival Party at The State Supreme Courthouse April 26, 2006 in New York City. (Photo by Evan Agostini/Getty Images for TFF)
David Bowie during David Bowie in Concert - October 14, 2007 at Capital Theater in Port Chester, New York, United States. (Photo by Ke.Mazur/WireImage)
FILE In this Oct. 25, 2007 file photo, David Bowie arrives at the Fourth Annual Black Ball Concert for "Keep A Child Alive" in New York. Musical chameleon David Bowie is starting the year with two nominations for Britain's leading music awards, the Brits. Bowie, who turned 67 on Wednesday, Jan. 8, 2014, is up for male British artist of the year and album of the year, for his first release in a decade, "The Next Day." (AP Photo/Stephen Chernin, File)
FILE - In this June 7, 2010 file photo, David Bowie attends the 2010 CFDA Fashion Awards in New York. The New York Theatre Workshop said Thursday, April 2, 2015, that Bowie will team up with âOnceâ playwright Enda Walsh to create the musical âLazarusâ this winter. The show is inspired by Walter Tevisâ 1963 novel âThe Man Who Fell to Earth,â which was adapted into a 1976 film starring Bowie. The new musical will have new and old Bowie songs . (AP Photo/Peter Kramer, File)
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More From Billboard's David Bowie Tribute: Bowie Changing Rock'n'Roll | Bowie's Sexuality | His Many Muses | His Passion for Soul and R&B | 25 Poignant Moments From His Life and Career |His Pioneering Use of TV | His Arresting Presence on Film | His Rebellious Style

Toni Basil, choreographer on Bowie's 1974 and 1987 tours

"Nothing was the same for me after working with him -- I was on the cover of a magazine, I was getting calls from all kinds of people to work with them. With him, it was like everything I had done my entire career came to fruition.

During rehearsals for the [1974] tour, we'd just finished [choreographing] the song 'Diamond Dogs,' where he wrapped up his backing singers in these long leashes. Next up: "What do we do for 'Panic in Detroit'?" We're in a rehearsal studio by ourselves, and I saw this light bulb go off in his head. He had been working out with his trainer earlier. He got up; he took two chairs that were in the studio and tied the leashes around the chairs as if it was a boxing ring. He put the boxing gloves on that he had from his trainer, sang 'Panic in the Detroit' from beginning to end, making boxing moves, and knocked himself out at the end. "Okay, that one's done. Next number!" He made it all up in that moment." -- As told to Jem Aswad

25 Poignant Moments From David Bowie's Life and Legendary Career

Glenn Hughes, former Deep Purple bassist/vocalist

"We met at the Beverly Wilshire in July or August 1974, when I was in Deep Purple. I'd just gotten back to my room from the studio at around 11 one night and I got a call from Angie [Bowie], who I had never met, saying David would would like to meet me. He had seen me on TV on the [broadcast of the] California Jam [festival, where Deep Purple performed]. So I went up to his room, there were a lot of people there -- Moony [Who drummer Keith Moon] was there, Woody [Rolling Stones guitarist Ron Wood] was there, and we sort of become inseparable. He was stepping into the Young Americans thing -- blue-eyed soul -- and I was very heavily into it, even though I dressed in leather. We stayed up all night talking about black music from Detroit and Memphis and where he was looking to go musically.

In 1975, he wanted to come out to L.A. and asked if he could stay with me. I was in Europe and when I got home he was writing Station to Station in my house. He was using his cut-up method, moving lines [of lyrics on paper] around -- he worked very spontaneously, he had no fear of changing things. And Station was more of a dangerous record than Young Americans. He'd just made The Man Who Fell To Earth, so he was in a different head space. It still had a phenomenal groove, but the lyrics were out of this world.

I think [his time in LA] was called "the dark year." We were both struck by addiction. He was extremely paranoid and fragile and down to like 100 pounds. Isolation was his biggest fear. Later on, he felt really uncomfortable about his behavior in L.A. It was a period for him that'd he'd rather not have done. I went through treatment 25 years ago, and I think he got sober before I did. But I've seen him sing great vocals and direct and produce music while he was high as a kite.

I'm completely devastated that we've lost him. He was very generous to me, very loving, very giving, very funny. I'm glad I was there for him at a time where he was in need of some support. I shall miss him." -- As told to Jem Aswad

Nicky Graham, keyboardist on Bowie's 1972 Ziggy Stardust U.K. tour

"David had just caught the first wave of success. It was thundering down towards us, and we were riding it like surfers. Everywhere we went got bigger and better and wilder.

When we went to Manchester to do a gig, we stayed at a hotel by Manchester Airport, and David flew to New York to see Elvis. We just sat around the hotel, and he came back two days later having been onstage with Elvis at Madison Square Garden.

When it came to playing "Suffragette City" live we had RCA print us these photographs of the Hunky Dory [album] sleeve. The road crew would go around the [balconies] and at the point where we stopped playing and David went, "Wham bam thank you ma'am," they would throw handfuls of these 8x10 photographs into the air.

It was a brilliant tour to be on, although we never imagined David to be a major star. He was just the singer in the band. He would eat with us. He would be in the bar afterwards with us, and he would travel with us. He didn't go in a limo while the Spiders went in a bus. We were all in it together. I think David was probably more shocked than anyone about how successful it was becoming. Don't forget he'd struggled for years to make it. He'd gone through this folkie period where he'd worn enormous baggy trousers, beautiful long hair and looked like a woman. But then suddenly it just went potty." -- As told to Richard Smirke

​David Bowie's Death: Musicians, Celebs and World Leaders React on Social Media

Carlos Alomar, guitarist/Bowie collaborator for more than 40 years

"He fooled us in the end, didn't he? Therein lies that mystery that is David Bowie. We're left to negotiate his death. Are Blackstar's lyrics encrypted? Well, dammit, every Bowie song is encrypted. It's a weird place that we find ourselves which is exactly the legacy of David Bowie. We have lost one of our princes -- it might be that he was just lost from space, but wherever he came from, he's gone back, and it's all our losses." -- As told to Camille Dodero

Steve Levine, producer (Beach Boys, Culture Club)

"I lived in Los Angeles in the early 1990s and I was producing an American artist who shall remain nameless. We were at Ocean Way Recording and David and Nile Rodgers were in the next studio. Ocean Way had a communal canteen, so we often sat in there and chatted about all things and he was fantastic.

The artist I was working with had this girl that he desperately wanted to shag and she was a massive Bowie fan. When we were in the canteen, he said: 'Do me a favor, David? Can you film something to camera with me and act like you're my best mate and she'll definitely sleep with me?'

And he did it. It was hilarious." -- As told to Richard Smirke


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