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David Bowie Once Started A Musical About Fictional Unreleased Bob Dylan Songs

Before David Bowie passed away last year, he worked avidly on Lazarus, a musical built around his songs that was heavily inspired by 1976’s The Man Who Fell to Earth. But Bowie had other ideas for musicals, too: In a new feature for GQ, author Michael Cunningham wrote about working with the singer on a musical with a surreal concept. The plot centered around aliens, and unreleased Bob Dylan songs being found in the future … which would be written by Bowie himself.

As Cunningham puts it:

Who could write a convincing fake Dylan song? Well, okay, that would be David Bowie, if anyone, but who (including David Bowie) would want to? And how would the actual Bob Dylan feel about that? I, however, said nothing about any of this. I expressed no surprise at all. No problem: an alien and some recently unearthed Dylan songs.

The musical also involved mariachi music, and the work of poet Emma Lazarus. (Cunningham on the weirdness of this: “I managed, in rough form, the first third of the book of a musical that did, indeed, involve an alien, Emma Lazarus, and a mariachi band. I hadn’t yet figured out a way to work the undiscovered Dylan songs into the plot.”) This all took place a little more than a decade ago, following Bowie’s 2004 heart attack. Cunningham’s piece details their partnership, which slowed as Bowie continued to suffer through heart problems. Eventually, it was abandoned altogether.

The ideas from their collaboration weren’t completely lost, though: Part of the concept was revived for Lazarus, whose plot also involves an alien. Eventually, Cunningham and Bowie were able to reconcile before the singer’s death. Read Cunningham’s piece in full here.