Mike Garson

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
Jump to navigation Jump to search

Mike Garson
Garson in Paris, 2006
Garson in Paris, 2006
Background information
Birth nameMichael David Garson
Born (1945-07-29) July 29, 1945 (age 75)
New York City, New York, U.S.
GenresRock, glam rock, industrial, techno, jazz, funk, experimental, folk, instrumental, ambient
InstrumentsPiano, keyboards
Years active1964–present
Associated acts

Michael David Garson (born July 29, 1945) is an American pianist, who has worked with David Bowie, Nine Inch Nails, St. Vincent, Free Flight and The Smashing Pumpkins. He is known for his improv style, never playing a song the same way twice.

Early career[edit]

After graduating from Brooklyn College with a music degree in 1970, Garson was a member of rock/country/jazz band Brethren with Rick Marotta, Tom Cosgrove and Stu Woods. They recorded two hard-to-find albums, Brethren (1970) and Moment of Truth (1971), on the Tiffany label, which featured guest piano and liner notes by Dr. John (and album photography by Murray Head, who scored a hit with "Say it Ain't So Joe", "Jesus Christ Superstar", and later with the single "One Night in Bangkok"). Garson is Jewish.[1][2]

Garson also earned notice when he played on the I'm the One (1972) album by early 1970s experimental artist Annette Peacock. David Bowie asked Peacock to join him on a tour; she declined, but Garson began an enduring working relationship with Bowie.

Work with David Bowie[edit]

Garson was David Bowie's longest and most frequent band member.[3] They performed together for both Bowie's first and last concerts in the United States as well as 1,000 concerts around the globe in between.[4]

Garson provided the piano and keyboard backing on the later Ziggy Stardust tour of 1972–73 and his contribution to the song "Aladdin Sane" (1973) gave the song an avant-garde jazz feel with lengthy and sometimes atonal piano solos.

I had told Bowie about the avant-garde thing. When I was recording the "Aladdin Sane" track for Bowie, it was just two chords, an A and a G chord, and the band was playing very simple English rock and roll. And Bowie said: 'play a solo on this.' I had just met him, so I played a blues solo, but then he said: 'No, that's not what I want.' And then I played a Latin solo. Again, Bowie said: 'No no, that's not what I want.' He then continued: 'You told me you play that avant-garde music. Play that stuff!' And I said: 'Are you sure? 'Cause you might not be working anymore!'. So I did the solo that everybody knows today, in one take. And to this day, I still receive emails about it. Every day. I always tell people that Bowie is the best producer I ever met, because he lets me do my thing.[5]

Garson played also for Bowie's guitarist bandmate Mick Ronson on his first and last solo tour, and his first Slaughter on Tenth Avenue (1974) and second solo album Play Don't Worry (1975). Garson came to replace Ronson as Bowie's musical lieutenant on several occasions, notably on "We Are the Dead" from the 1974 Diamond Dogs album, where Garson's metronome-like keyboard provides a dramatic setting for Bowie's vocals, and on the title track to Young Americans (1975) where his jaunty piano leads the band. Garson played with Bowie on and off over the years, resurfacing on The Buddha of Suburbia (1993) and 1 Outside (1995).

Music career[edit]

External video
video icon Oral History, Mike Garson reflects on his greatest musical influences. Interview date October 3, 2011, NAMM (National Association of Music Merchants) Oral History Library

Parallel to this work with Bowie, Garson engaged in his own solo career as a jazz pianist. He is regarded in the industry as one of the very few 'rock' pianists capable of performing extended piano solos. He remains one of the most highly sought-after session musicians with a unique sound of his own.

Garson worked with the reformed Spiders from Mars in 1975, alongside Mick Woodmansey, Trevor Bolder, Dave Black (guitar) and Pete McDonald (vocals). They recorded one eponymous album in 1976 before going their separate ways.

In 1984, Garson became a member of the jazz ensemble Free Flight, founded by flautist Jim Walker.[6]

In 1993, Garson began a short-lived series of Screen Themes albums, jazz renditions of major themes and suites from film scores of 1993 (Man & a Woman, Sax at the Movies), and the following year, 1994 (Reel Romance). The latter album featured the recording debut of Jessica L. Tivens, at age 13, who had previously appeared on the American television show Star Search. Both albums were released by Discovery Records.

Garson joined in 1998 The Smashing Pumpkins for their Adore tour, playing piano, keyboards and synthesizer. His piano playing was an integral part of the Pumpkins' performance. After the tour, he joined The Smashing Pumpkins guitarist Billy Corgan on his solo effort—the soundtrack for the 1999 supernatural horror film Stigmata. Additionally Garson played piano on The Smashing Pumpkins next 2000 album Machina/The Machines of God on the songs "Glass and the Ghost Children" and "With Every Light".

Garson has played also on Nine Inch Nails 1999 album The Fragile, in 2000 with No Doubt and Perry Farrell,[7] in 2007 with St. Vincent,[8] and many others. Garson collaborated with Nine Inch Nails singer Trent Reznor again on for the Grammy nominated score to the 2014 Gone Girl film on which they collaborated and Garson performed.[9]

Mike Garson appeared on Myspace with his own music site, and to date has released some 50 free tracks. He is currently working on three new albums, as well as collaborating with several bands as touring player/session musician. His latest collaboration shows up on the last "met-on-Myspace" French artist Kuta's 2007 album A Home. Garson also contributed to and received co writing credit on the track "Something Unseen" by Athens, Georgia based power pop band Chris McKay & the Critical Darlings. He has also been collaborating with the Norwegian band Sleepyard. In addition to this, he worked on the writing and recording of two songs on mathcore band The Dillinger Escape Plan's 2010 release, Option Paralysis.

In 2011, Garson contributed a remarkable piano solo to "Night Garden", a pop-psychedelic-Latin jazz song by singer-songwriter Johnny J. Blair. The track was issued on Blair's album I Like the Street [1], an album that drew comparisons to David Bowie, Roxy Music, and Velvet Underground.

Garson premiered a new commissioned work in 2014, written in collaboration with medical patients in partnership with brain surgeon Dr. Christopher Duma of the Foundation for Neuroscience, Stroke and Recovery. Mike's work, a set of movements of original music compositions, titled “Symphonic Healing Suite” which will continue with the National Symphony in 2016 along with Garson's latest solo album release. [10][11]

A comprehensive biography of Garson's life and career to date was published in 2015, under the title Bowie's Piano Man: The Life of Mike Garson, by Clifford Slapper.

Current work[edit]

Garson performed in the concert series Celebrating David Bowie from early 2017 through early 2018 [12] and headlined a tour of the UK in November 2017 with his Aladdin Sane tour.[13] Mike and fellow David Bowie band alumni began touring in 2018 with a new show A Bowie Celebration: The David Bowie Alumni Tour and continued the tour each year since.[14].

In December 2018, Garson returned to perform with both The Smashing Pumpkins and Nine Inch Nails in separate Los Angeles area concerts.[15][16] Mike continued his collaboration with Reznor in 2019, composing the opening piano number for his HBO series Watchmen score.[17]

In 2020, Mike's Bowie alumni tour returned to play the Diamond Dogs and Ziggy Stardust albums in their entirety [18] only to be stopped by the COVID-19_pandemic after having performed just a portion of their previously scheduled tour dates.

In October 2020, Garson announced he would be producing an online livestream concert on January 8, 2021 - what would have been David Bowie's birthday and the weekend of the fifth anniversary of Bowie's passing called "A Bowie Celebration: Just For One Day!" with an array of Bowie alumni band members spanning the history of David's albums and tours from beginning to end. The show is reported to include performances from Trent Reznor, Billy Corgan, Gary Oldman, Gavin Rossdale, Ian Astbury, Joe Elliot, Perry Farrell, Macy Gray, Lzzy Hale, Bernard Fowler, Corey Glover, Lena Hall and Judith Hill, with additional guests to be announced. [19][20][21]

Personal life[edit]

Garson married his wife Susan on March 24, 1968. They have two daughters, Jennifer and Heather, and seven grandchildren. They lived in Bell Canyon, California where Garson had his recording studio,[22] until the Woolsey Fires hit, leveling both Garson's home and studio to the ground.[23]

Garson joined the Church of Scientology in 1970, having been introduced to it by Chick Corea.[24] While he played with Bowie he advocated Scientology to the other members of the Spiders from Mars, with Woodmansey converting as a result. Garson left the Church in 1982.[25]


With David Bowie


  1. ^ Bowie's Piano Man. (The Aspiring Rabbi Who Became A Rock Icon ... https://blogs.timesofisrael.com/bowies-piano-man-the-aspiring-rabbi-who-became-a-r... Mar 31, 2015 – Post war America was booming and New York was the centre of the world. ... Like many Jewish artists of his generation, he started out by playing on the Borscht Belt ... “Bowie's Piano Man” is the first biography of Mike Garson.
  2. ^ Bowie's Piano Man, The Life of Mike Garson by Clifford Slapper: Book ... https://louderthanwar.com/bowies-piano-man-life-mike-garson-clifford-slapper-book-... May 28, 2015 – Great biography of Bowie's genius pianist, Mike Garson. ... As the only Jew in the barrack room, he was originally bullied whilst in the army but ... Bowie at the time was on the verge of breaking America, already huge in Britain ...
  3. ^ "Biography of jazz pianist who gained fame with Bowie". Fitzrovia News. Retrieved October 13, 2017.
  4. ^ "Mike Garson on Bowie". The Mouth Magazine. Retrieved October 13, 2017.
  5. ^ Garson, Mike (2008). "History and True Abandon". Artist Interviews (Interview). Interviewed by Maarten de Haan. Retrieved May 12, 2015.
  6. ^ Yanow, Scott. "Mike Garson Biography". AllMusic. All Media Network. Retrieved May 12, 2015.
  7. ^ "removed message". Instagram. Retrieved October 13, 2017.
  8. ^ Joshua Klein (July 27, 2007). "Sidewoman to the stars (well, Sufjan Stevens and the Polyphonic Spree, at least) Annie Clark steps into the spotlight for her St. Vincent debut, with results so inventive and impressive you wonder what took her so long". Pitchfork. Retrieved October 13, 2017.
  9. ^ "Trent Reznor And Atticus Ross Find The Musicality In Noise With 'Gone Girl'".
  10. ^ Cavaness, Kyle (February 14, 2014). "MIKE GARSON'S NEW SYMPHONY LITERALLY HEALS MIND, BODY AND SOUL". OC Weekly. Retrieved January 25, 2016.
  11. ^ Lee, Greg (February 16, 2015). "PIANIST USES MUSIC TO HELP THOSE SUFFERING FROM BRAIN CONDITIONS". ABC 7 News. Retrieved January 25, 2016.
  12. ^ Greene, Andy. "Inside the Ultimate David Bowie Tribute Tour". Rolling Stone. Retrieved October 12, 2017.
  13. ^ "Aladdin Sane The Tour". aladdinsanetour.com. Retrieved December 4, 2017.
  14. ^ "About A Bowie Celebration". A Bowie Celebration. Retrieved November 20, 2018.
  15. ^ "Smashing Pumpkins Reunite With 90's Bandmate At KROQ Absolut Almost Acoustic Christmas". Alternative Nation. Retrieved December 13, 2018.
  16. ^ "Watch Trent Reznor Reunite With 90's Nine Inch Nails Collaborator". Alternative Nation. Retrieved December 15, 2018.
  17. ^ "Trent Reznor taps Mike Garson for Watchmen". The NIN Hotline. Retrieved November 7, 2019.
  18. ^ "David Bowie alumni doing 'Diamond Dogs'/'Ziggy Stardust' tour in 2020". Brooklyn Vegan. Retrieved November 7, 2019.
  19. ^ Richards, Will. "Trent Reznor, Billy Corgan and more to play David Bowie tribute livestream". NME. Retrieved October 31, 2020.
  20. ^ William, Chriss. "Trent Reznor to Take Part in David Bowie Tribute Webcast Helmed by Longtime Accompanist Mike Garson". Variety.
  21. ^ "A Bowie Celebration streaming event". davidbowie.com.
  22. ^ Hero: David Bowie – Lesley-Ann Jones – Google Books Retrieved 2016-12-09.
  23. ^ Rubin, Joel. "A family watched their homes burn on TV, one after another". Los Angeles Times. Retrieved November 19, 2018.
  24. ^ Boehm, Mike (March 1, 2014). "Pianist Mike Garson debuts 'Symphonic Suite for Healing'". Los Angeles Times. Retrieved April 19, 2018.
  25. ^ Williams, John (November 11, 2016). "Chatting With Bowie". The New York Times. Retrieved April 19, 2018.

External links[edit]