Bowie guitarist Gerry Leonard discusses his final years: “he was pretty candid that he was shaken”

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Leonard played on three of Bowie's four most recent albums

David Bowie‘s guitarist has spoken about the final years of the star’s life in a new interview, following Bowie’s death on January 10, aged 69.

Gerry Leonard played guitar for three of Bowie’s albums – ‘Heathen’ (2002), ‘Reality’ (2003) and ‘The Next Day’ (2013). The Irishman also worked as musical director of Bowie’s 2004 ‘Reality’ tour.

Speaking to Vulture yesterday (January 22), Leonard discussed his lack of involvement with Bowie’s final album, ‘Blackstar’, and talked about the fallout from Bowie’s heart attack towards the end of his extensive ‘Reality’ tour.

Leonard also emphasised that Bowie’s heart attack in 2004 was a complete surprise, after which “he went pretty quiet… He was pretty candid that he was shaken.”

But Bowie was always in demand, Leonard said, adding that he was constantly asked to pass opportunities on to him even if he thought Bowie would say no. “I could see the humour in it, and he would see it, too. Everyone thought they had a good idea for David.”

Working on the ‘The Next Day’ was the first time Leonard had had to sign a non-disclosure agreement for Bowie, he says, but Bowie had always been secretive about his new music, he says. “I remember asking David, ‘Can I pass [a preview copy of ‘Reality’ on]?’ And he said, ‘I’d rather you didn’t.’ Everything was numbered, watermarked.”

The guitarist also refuted the idea that ‘Blackstar’ was only about Bowie’s death. “I wouldn’t say that it was the only impetus. I think sometimes you just make art, and then when it’s done, you look back and suddenly it has a context. But David worked very much in the present, and sure, maybe these things were hovering and casting a particular shadow. But I think it all makes a lot more sense with hindsight.”

However, he suggested that ‘Blackstar”s symbol-only cover was a significant move. “I was asked why there was no picture of him on his Blackstar cover, and I said, ‘Well, maybe [as with ‘The Next Day’] he’s trying to disappear again.’ And of course the next day we got the news. I think it was very deliberate.”

Read the full interview here.

Since the news of Bowie’s death his music has seen a 5000% increase in sales in the USA. He remains at Number One on the UK Album Chart for a second week running with his final album ‘Blackstar’, which was released on January 8, two days before his death.

The Official Charts Company announced yesterday that Bowie dominates the UK Albums Chart for a second week, with ‘Blackstar’ staying at Number One and nine Bowie albums in the chart in total.

Compilation album ‘Best Of Bowie’ is at Number Three, 2014 best-of ‘Nothing Has Changed’ is at Number 6, while ‘Hunky Dory’, ‘The Rise And Fall Of Ziggy Stardust’, ‘Aladdin Sane’, ‘The Next Day’, ‘Low’ and ‘Let’s Dance’ are also in the Top 40.
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