Musical director Michael Dorf has been organizing charity tribute concerts to support various music education programs for underserved youth for the past 13 years.
The founder of two seminal NYC music venues — the Knitting Factory and City Winery — his events have honored the songwriting of renowned artists like Bob Dylan, Neil Young, the Rolling Stones and more while giving back to the musical community at the same time.
So when Dorf got word last year that music icon David Bowie had agreed to participate in this year’s tribute — being held March 31 at Carnegie Hall and April 1 at Radio City Music Hall — he was equal parts giddy for both the charities his concerts benefit and for himself as a fan.
Then on Jan. 10, everything changed with Bowie’s passing.
amNew York had a chance to chat with Dorf about the metamorphisis his event has undergone since then, the impressive lineup of artists coming to pay their respects at both shows by performing a set list of Bowie songs, and the positives that have emerged from such sad circumstances.
Take me through the process of initially getting David Bowie on board for this tribute.
David Bowie was someone I’d been asking [his] management for years to do [the tribute]. I like to get the permission directly from the artist. Bowie was reluctant for many years. Luckily we got through to [participating musician] Tony Visconti. He and Tony agreed and he was excited to participate. It felt great to know we got this approval and this connection with David Bowie to be a part of the event.
But then his passing changed everything of course.
Obviously more artists wanted to participate and it became a bigger, intense show. Once everyone heard of his death and coincidentally we were already doing this show, it just became an easy call. The Flaming Lips, Mumford & Sons, the Pixies, these are acts we’re always going to ask. But now that David was gone, and they wanted to pay their respects, it just prioritized higher on their totem pole.
What can you take from this, knowing how his music affected so many people?
The positive that comes from this sadness is [that] this year we’re going to raise a quarter million dollars for this charity. So we’re more than doubling what we’re going to raise [normally]. And that’s a great outcome to come from this sadness.