David Bowie loved Philadelphia and the city loved him right back.
He recorded albums such as ‘David Live’ in July 1974 at the Tower Theater, then holed up later that same year at N. 12th Street’s Sigma Sound Studio to produce what became his Sound of Philadelphia soul-inspired ‘Young Americans’. Bowie and his various band members and producers made lifelong friends here, starting with ‘Sigma Kids’ such as Patti Brett.
When Bowie suddenly passed away on Jan. 10, 2016 from liver cancer at his home in New York City, two days after both his 69th birthday and the release of his final album, ‘Blackstar’, his Philly fan family such as Brett and WXPN DJ Robert Drake – devastated as they were – flew into action.
That’s how Philly Loves Bowie Week originated, and the tradition continues today. From Jan. 6 to 14, local musicians, artists, filmmakers, chefs, bakers, theater makers, craft brew masters, gallery curators and more – throughout the city and suburbs – host and perform Bowie-themed events for the benefit of the Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia, and the Cancer Center at CHOP.
Since 2017, Philly Loves Bowie Week has raised over $50,000 for the charity.
“David Bowie influenced more than a generation — he touched several generations with his broad exploration of music and art and his passion for creative freedom also helped fuel the voice of the left-of-center community,” said Robert Drake, the week’s co-curator, dance party DJ and radio host for Bowie’s reading on Peter and the Wolf, originally recorded with the Philadelphia Orchestra.
“Toss all that into a bowl and you have the root for why we continue to coordinate Philly Love Bowie Week seven years after his passing.
Designed to celebrate the Starman in all platforms, there are events such as the 40th anniversary of Bowie’s ‘Let’s Dance’ album with a night featuring haZy cosmic jive at Brooklyn Bowl Philadelphia. Also, Federal Donuts baked a Velvet Goldmine Bownut of spiced cake with white chocolate glaze, blue sanding sugar, red sprinkles and an edible gold flake stripe. And Weckerly’s Ice Cream in West Philly and Fishtown, starting Jan. 6, will bring back their Blue Blue Electric Blue ice cream sandwich with Pea Flower Blue Sweet Cream Ice Cream, a layer of Life on MARShmallow, topped with a Thin White sugar cookie, complete with a lightning bolt of red berry jam, and finished with a Black Star cocoa cookie.
Mostly though, there is Bowie music from cover bands such as Stardust at City Winery and longtime Philly Loves Bowie Week participants Candy Volcano, whose Kevin Monko is pleased to tackle several PLBW events in 2023, including the Aladdin Sane 50th Anniversary at Ardmore Music Hall.
“We’re celebrating 10 years of Candy Volcano, 50 years of Aladdin Sane and we’re psyched to expand the Philly Loves Bowie universe out to the ‘burbs,” says Monko. “We just hope we can all fit on that stage without forming a human totem pole of backup singers or erecting a Hollywood Squares scaffold — although they would both be so cool.”
Last, but in no way least, there is the annual grand closing event—A Night of Stardust—at Union Transfer featuring Jimmy Gnecco and Low Cut Connie’s Adam Weiner in celebration of the week’s namesake.
“It’s been 50 years since Ziggy Stardust came on the scene and I feel like that record just grows in stature all the time,” said Weiner. “I’m glad I’m in town to sing a couple of his classics. Bowie was the great reinventor and his art resonates with me and so many others.”
For a complete schedule of events, visit PhillyLovesBowie.com