Why David Bowie Knelt and Said the Lord's Prayer at Wembley Stadium

(Express Newspapers via AP Images)

David Bowie, who died of cancer Sunday at age 69, defied almost every convention over a five-decade roller-coaster journey through multiple music genres, film, art and more.

And there was that time that he knelt and led 72,000 fans in the Our Father during 1992’s epic Freddie Mercury tribute concert at Wembley Stadium.

Bowie added the prayer between songs, prefaced with words about remembering those who had died or were ill. He explained the moment to the now-defunct British magazine Arena in a 1993 interview:

I decided to do it about five minutes before I went on stage. Coco [Schwab, Bowie’s long-term personal assistant] and I had a friend called Craig who was dying of AIDS. He was just dropping into a coma that day. And just before I went on stage something just told me to say the Lord’s Prayer. The great irony is that he died two days after the show.

….In rock music, especially in the performance arena, there is no room for prayer, but I think that so many of the songs people write are prayers. A lot of my songs seem to be prayers for unity within myself. On a personal level, I have an undying belief in God’s existence. For me it is unquestionable.

….Looking at what I have done in my life, in retrospect so much of what I thought was adventurism was searching for my tenuous connection with God. I was always investigating, always looking into why religions worked and what it was people found in them. And I was always fluctuating from one set of beliefs to another until a very low point in the mid-Seventies where I developed a fascination with black magic… And although I’m sure there was a satanic lead pulling me towards it, it wasn’t a search for evil. It was in the hope that the signs might lead me somewhere.

The year of that concert, 1992, was when Bowie married Somali supermodel Iman, first in a private civil ceremony with no guests in Switzerland followed by a family-filled service at St. James Episcopal Church in Florence, Italy. “I know the forms were signed, but at the back of our minds our real marriage, sanctified by God, had to happen in a church in Florence,” Bowie later told Hello! magazine.

The producer of Bowie’s last album, the chart-topping Blackstar, said that he created the album as a parting gift for fans. It was released two days before his death, on his 69th birthday. The track “Lazarus” opens, “Look up here, I’m in Heaven.” Indeed, in his last photo shoot, the gravely ill singer was radiating happiness.

The last words Iman tweeted before his death: “The struggle is real, but so is God.”

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