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One of David Bowie's most played songs in 2010 has a remarkably unusual origin - even by his standards ...

... it was the song of an unidentified homeless man who died long ago without a trace.


Bowie explained:


"It will either drive you up the wall or you will produce some amazing drawings while listening to it.

You could probably cook a fish to this as well."




The version below combines the original singer with the latter-day troubadour of America’s underclass, Tom Waits.

As for the original singer, we know very little - and despite the song sounding like a hymn, the provenance of the music has also NEVER BEEN FOUND.



The idea came about when Gavin Bryars was trawling through unused tapes of a 1971 film about those living rough in London. He became drawn to a particular voice and melody which had an almost trained quality, beautifully phrased and consistently pitched:

"When I played it at home, I found that his singing was in tune with my piano, and I improvised a simple accompaniment.

I noticed, too, that the first section of the song – 13 bars in length – formed an effective loop which repeated in a slightly unpredictable way."




Since discovering the 26 second audio sample, Bryars began working on extendeding it and improving it.

He developed a rich ensemble sound with strings and brass, weighted to the low end of the harmonic scale.

A 25-minute version was first performed at the Queen Elizabeth Hall in December 1972, and recorded for Brian Eno's Obscure label in 1975. 

A 60-minute version followed for cassette and a 74-minute version appeared on CD in 1993 (the one with Tom Waits singing along).

Finally in April 2019, a 12-hour overnight version was performed in London's Tate Gallery!!!




It's hard not to let the imagination wander and think of this man reflecting on wasted years, weeping at times about friendships that had lost their way and people who had drifted away from him.

In light of all these possibilities, we need to hear him singing in his slightly tremulous voice laced with conviction:



Jesus' blood never failed me yet,

Never failed me yet,

Jesus' blood never failed me yet,

This one thing I know,

For he loved me so,

Jesus' blood never failed me yet,


~ The Song Remains the Same (Andrew Ford, Anni Heino):



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