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Dennis Davis

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Dennis Davis
Background information
Born(1951-08-28)August 28, 1951
New York City, New York
DiedApril 6, 2016(2016-04-06) (aged 64)
  • Drums
  • percussion

Dennis Davis (August 28, 1951 – April 6, 2016) was an American drummer and session musician best known for his work with David Bowie, playing on ten albums—including seven successive studio albums—during the singer's classic mid- and late- seventies period, and on many hit singles, starting with "Fame" (1975).

Early life and military service[edit]

Davis was born and raised in Manhattan, New York City, and studied with drummers Max Roach and Elvin Jones before joining the Clark Terry Big Band in 1967. He joined the U.S. Navy and served on the USS Rowan (DD-782) from 1969 to 1970 during the Vietnam War. He was discharged from the U.S Navy in 1970 in San Diego, California.[1] He was wounded during his military service, but was able to hone his skills when he performed as part of the US Navy's Drum and Bugle Corps.[2]


Davis met guitarist Carlos Alomar when they were both playing with Roy Ayers.[3] Davis was hired by David Bowie in 1974 for two tracks on Young Americans. Alomar, Davis and George Murray formed the "D.A.M. Trio" rhythm section which performed on seven successive albums released by Bowie in the 1970s, all of which are regarded as amongst the artist's best.[4] Davis also played on three live albums recorded during that period, two of which were released after Bowie's death. The snare sound used on Bowie's Low album is considered influential on many later records. It was the result of early pitch shifting technology coupled with Davis's sensitive touch as a performer.[5] In the late seventies Davis also teamed up with Stevie Wonder and worked on four albums over the following decade. In the early 2000s, he played percussion on David Bowie's live tours, including the artist's last, A Reality Tour, in 2003. The drummer for that band was Sterling Campbell, who was previously a student of Davis.[6]

Death, tributes and sons[edit]

Davis died on April 6, 2016, of cancer.[7] His youngest son, Hikaru Davis, made a series of interview videos from 2016 to 2019 speaking with musicians who knew his father.[8] When interviewed, Tony Visconti played Davis' drum and "thunderous" conga tracks from "Look Back in Anger", periodically exclaiming "great!", "amazing!", "that's killer!", and noting that Davis "plays so many things at once... and yet it doesn't sound busy".[9] The accompanying review says that Davis is "that most perfect of drummers too: endlessly inventive, yet never gets in the way of the funk." T-Bone Motta, an older son, has been the drummer for Public Enemy since 2012.[10]

Selective discography[edit]

With Roy Ayers

  • Red, Black and Green (1973)
  • Coffy (1973)
  • Virgo Red (1973)
  • A Tear to a Smile (1975)
  • Vibrations (1976)
  • Step in to Our Life (1978)
  • You Send Me (1978) – "Can't You See Me"
  • No Stranger to Love (1979)
  • I'm the One for Your Love Tonight (1987)
  • Wake Up (1989)
  • Double Trouble (1992)
  • Good Vibrations (1993)
  • The Essential Groove – Live (1994)
  • Naste′ (1995)
  • Mahogany Vibe (2004)

With George Benson

With David Bowie

With Zachary Breaux

  • Groovin (1992)

With Ronnie Foster

With Jermaine Jackson

  • Let's Get Serious (1980) – "Let's Get Serious", "Where Are You Now", "You're Supposed to Keep Your Love for Me"

With Garland Jeffreys

With Iggy Pop

With Smokey Robinson

With Stevie Wonder


  1. ^ "The Trap Set".
  2. ^ Blackard, Cap (April 7, 2016). "R.I.P. Dennis Davis, longtime drummer of David Bowie, has died". Consequence of Sound. Retrieved May 25, 2016.
  3. ^ "Carlos Alomar Q&A". Teenagewildlife.com. Archived from the original on April 12, 2016. Retrieved October 11, 2011.
  4. ^ "The Making OF David Bowie's -D.A.M TRIO-". April 25, 2016.
  5. ^ "Sound and Vision". Recordingology.
  6. ^ "Features Stories". Modern Drummer Magazine. August 3, 2010. Retrieved March 20, 2016.
  7. ^ "Dennis Davis, Longtime David Bowie Drummer, Dies". Rolling Stone. April 7, 2016. Retrieved May 25, 2016.
  8. ^ "The HD Projects". YouTube. Retrieved March 25, 2019.
  9. ^ "The Amazing Isolated Drums of Dennis Davis, David Bowie's Master Drummer, Revisited by Producer Tony Visconti | Open Culture".
  10. ^ "The Trap Set".

External links[edit]