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RIP Michael Parkinson

Michael Parkinson was a minor figure in the Bowie universe but a major presence on British television. He was a broadcaster and talk show host who interviewed Bowie at least twice. He died earlier this month at the age of 88. Parkinson’s career more or less tracked the rise and maturation of rock and roll. He was one of the figures who appeared on the cover of Paul McCartney’s album, Band on the Run. That said, and not that I’m an expert on Michael Parkinson, but he wasn’t a music journalist as much, as far as I can tell, a chronicler of the times.

I am posting a 20 minute interview Parkinson did with Bowie in 2002. Bowie is sitting alongside Tom Hanks, with whom he briefly trades notes about the benefits of cross dressing to one’s early career. Bowie is in the height of the period I think of as “Jonesie.” Far from the remote alien, he’s friendly, approachable and open about the thinking behind some of his earlier personae and career moves. If you watch this, you’ll notice the number of times he mentions having come from Brixton. He’s not a mysterious alien or Aryan duke, he’s David Jones from an English suburb.

I found the whole interview interesting, especially the part where he discusses his first album, which I wrote about a few days ago (everything he says is consistent with my observations, so…whew!) I think at one point he gets up to sing, “Life on Mars,” but sadly that piece is cut out of the clip.

Anyway, Parkinson manages to draw a lot out of Bowie without saying much himself. He asks a few key questions and lets Bowie go. He’s not competing for attention. This is the kind of interview that is inevitably used as source material for writers trying to access what Bowie was thinking. That said, I’m not totally sure that “Jonesie” isn’t as artificial a character as Ziggy Stardust. There’s a comment attached to the clip that says Bowie’s son, Duncan Jones, says that this is the most natural interview Bowie ever gave. If so, I’ll take his word for it.

Anyway, I thought the occasion of Parkinson’s death was worth noting.

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