By Brian Ives
Before tonight, David Bowie had only won but one GRAMMY Award in his entire career: Best Short Form Video in 1984.
Tonight, a little over a year after his passing, he added quite a few more, for his final album, Blackstar. The title track won Best Rock Performance at the pre-televised ceremony, and the album itself won Best Alternative Music Album.
His collaborator on the album, saxophonist Donnie McCaslin, along with his backing band (who played on Blackstar) was on hand to accept both awards.
“It’s an honor and a privilege to have been invited to accept this award for David,” McCaslin said, as he accepted Best Rock Performance. “The course of my life, as an artist and person, changed when I met David in the summer of 2014. Working with him on Blackstar introduced me to an artistic genius, a kind man and a funny as hell guy.”
“In one email in the early stages of recording ‘Blackstar,’ he sent me the following message: ‘Donny: the structure of the song is sound, but now, we need to fill a pin-like beam on the rest, like a P.I. scouting a motel room. I’m so excited I just vomited up a 1967 Mercedes!’ That’s how it was with him: collaborative, funny and always ready to try new things.”
He added, “I’m a better artist, and a better person, for having known him.”
Minutes later, McCaslin and his band returned to the stage to accept Best Alternative Music Album, and he offered another example of Bowie’s sense of humor. “One time we were emailing and we had just recorded ‘Sue’ with Maria Schneider,” he recalled, referring to the song “Sue (or In a Season of Crime).” “And I was checking in about it, and he wrote back and said, ‘I haven’t had this much fun since my heart attack.’ He was the real deal. When we worked together, it was a really collaborative creative environment, and I couldn’t have asked for a better situation, I don’t think any of us could’ve. He made us feel at ease, he was open to all of our input, and his songs were amazing. And he was really just one of the most wonderful people I’ve ever met in my life, and I’m just so honored, deeply honored, to be here.
Earlier in the night, Blackstar also won GRAMMYs for Best Recording Package (that award went to the album’s art director, Jonathan Barnbrook) and
Best Engineered Album, Non-Classical, which went to the album’s engineers — Bowie, Tom Elmhirst, Kevin Killen and Tony Visconti along with mastering engineer Joe LaPorta.
UPDATE: Bowie’s “Blackstar” won Best Rock Song during the televised broadcast, bringing its total of GRAMMYs to five.