'Vinyl' and The Grammys: A David Bowie Bridge - NBC New York

'Vinyl' and The Grammys: A David Bowie Bridge

David Bowie's legacy spans two very different shows: the new 1970s music industry drama 'Vinyl' and this year's Grammys.



    The premiere of HBO's "Vinyl" Sunday and CBS' Grammy Awards broadcast Monday are separated by less than 24 hours – and more than 40 years.

    In the drama, "Vinyl" Martin Scorsese, Mick Jagger and Terence Winter team to depict the music industry in the 1970s, when forms from glam to disco to punk to early hip-hop suddenly exploded with a combustible energy often too raw for radio. The Grammys, meanwhile, offer a range of genres built for the shuffle friendly streaming age, presented in a polished spectacle whose main source of unpredictability is Kanye West. 

    The long-planned drama and awards program, though, arrive with unexpected opportunities to honor, in varying ways, a transformative music figure: David Bowie. The spirit of the entertainment great, who died last month at age 69, spans the shows, for which he helped set the stage.

    Bowie not only inhabited the world portrayed in “Vinyl,” he can claim a co-creator credit for the wild period. The drugs, the androgyny and the search for identity amid rebellion helped fuel the music and define the time. Bowie's ability to morph and stay ahead of the game influenced performers from Madonna to Lady Gaga, who is set to pay tribute to him at the Grammys.

    Bowie reached the height of his fame in the chaotic 1970s, thriving as a chameleon who never lost himself as he created new music until the end. His death is still hard for many to fathom, along with the recent passing of the Eagles' Glenn Frey, Earth Wind & Fire's Maurice White and Jefferson Airplane/Starship's Paul Kantner, all of whom made unique contributions the post-1960s musical mélange.

    In 1970s, all those acts could claim devoted followings, with more than a few shared fans. That's still true today, as planned Grammy salutes to Frey, by his fellow Eagles and Jackson Browne, and to Bowie attest.

    Staying power rests not only in making memorable music. Gaga’s upcoming performance and Scorsese’ 1970s ode aside, perhaps the greatest tribute to David Bowie is that he remains strong in our thoughts as he permeates two very different broadcasts, one night and musical eras apart. 


    Jere Hester is Director of News Products and Projects at the City University of New York Graduate School of Journalism. He is also the author of "Raising a Beatle Baby: How John, Paul, George and Ringo Helped us Come Together as a Family." Follow him on Twitter.