Weehawken resident and music producer Stephanie Mayers decided to put her experience to good use by creating a David Bowie tribute album with local and national performers, whose proceeds will go to LGBTQ youth.
“This project has been a big part of my world,” Mayers said. Not only does she believe in the cause, but is a “huge” David Bowie fan, she said.
“The music just hits me right in the heart and soul,” said Mayers. “It’s so strong and lovely and original. He was a creative genius and a gentleman and a living breathing walking work of art himself.”
Bowie died of cancer last year at the age of 69.
The album, “Let All the Children Boogie: a Tribute to David Bowie,” has 20 Bowie covers including Starman, The Man Who Sold the World, Heroes, Life on Mars?, and Ziggy Stardust. The wide array of diverse artists include child entertainers such as Dean Jones, Justin Roberts, and Weehawken’s own Sonia De Los Santos, as well as artists who aren’t associated with youth audiences such as Rhett Miller and Ted Leo.
“It was a no brainer,” said De Los Santos about why she chose to be involved. “It’s a great honor. Not only being asked to do this, but to see other artists in the project, a lot of peers in the family and children’s music world, like Lloyd Miller and Dean Jones and then we have Ted Leo. We weren’t aware how big it was going to be and who else was involved... then we saw the list. We thought ‘Wow,’ to be on the album with people we truly admire is incredible.”
It gets better
Proceeds from the album go to the It Gets Better Project, which was created in response to youth suicide caused by bullying and harassment. The project uses videos and other means to inspire hope for children who identify as gay, lesbian, bi sexual, transgender, or questioning their identity. It’s meant to communicate that “it does indeed get better.”
“The way he lived his life so free and constantly preached tolerance.” – Stephanie Mayers
Mayers said Bowie was the perfect artist to express this message.
“Just who he was and the way he lived his life and the messages he put out there...The way he lived his life so free and constantly preached tolerance. It was the perfect way to honor him and his message,” said Mayers.
“We play music for families and kids all the time and we are really in touch with the families we play music for,” said De Los Santos. “We have friends with children in the LGBTQ community, and we have seen them struggle and their parents trying to do their best to support them. It’s an important issue to address because I don’t think the LGBTQ community has gotten the attention it needs. It breaks my heart to hear about the suicide rates. I find it heart breaking ... We should be raising our voices for them.”
Big shoes to fill
De Los Santos said reworking a well-known song like David Bowie’s “A Man Who Sold the World” is a “huge responsibility.”
“You have pretty big shoes to fill,” said De Los Santos. “First we had the Nirvana cover stuck in our head, but we decided to use instruments we play like the jarana guitar from Mexico, where I am from, in the recording. Right off the bat we had a very different sound from the original song and hoped for the best.”
De Los Santos said that she is a fan of Bowie and his messages and she thinks he would like her cover of his song.
“We have gotten a great response,” said De Los Santos. “It’s so different from everything else. I’m sure he would’ve been psyched to hear it played with the traditional guitar. I am more in touch with his music now and not only the original versions but how people interpret his work nowadays.”
De Los Santos, who has lived in Weehawken for the past two years, said her surroundings helped her creatively.
“It definitely has influenced me creatively,” said De Los Santos. “It has to do with space I have at home, as a freelancer I spend a lot of time at home and I have more creative space here than in the city. I spend more time working on creating more things. It’s quiet and sitting here at the kitchen table I see trees and birds. It is so different than when I lived in New York City.”
Mayers said she tried not to give artists any rules or barriers on how to put a new spin on Bowie’s songs.
“We just said we are trying to introduce him to a new generation,” said Mayers. “We were blown away by how unique they were. It was like Christmas every time we got a new song in our inbox.”
Mayers said her daughter loves the album and grew up listening to Bowie.
“She loves it and always asks me to put it on. She will say ‘Can we put on your Bowie?’,” said Mayers, who admitted to more than a few family dance parties in the kitchen.
The album can be purchased on Amazon, iTunes, Google Play, and Barnes & Noble, and costs less than $13 for the CD or less than $10 for the MP3.
Marilyn Baer can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.