Music Heals: Stefan Mitchell on the Vision and History Behind Bowievision

Music Heals
Janice Headley

With Music Heals: Beyond Cancer, KEXP sought to share stories of the power of music and the part it plays for those facing cancer. Collaborating with our friends at the Seattle Cancer Care Alliance Proton Therapy Center, we conclude the twelve hours of on-air programming with a special event in the Gathering Space from 6 to 8 PM. We invite everyone, all ages, to join us at this free uplifting event for an evening of stories, songs, and music by Bowievision, a David Bowie cover band. 

Seattle's own Bowievision is a perfect fit for tonight, for many reasons. 

"I discovered my singing voice while I was volunteering at a pediatric oncology camp," frontman Stefan Mitchell tells us. "After getting the courage to sing at the campfires, I eventually formed a band, landed a recording contract, and moved to Seattle after being 'discovered.'  Spending many years in service to children and families who are dealing with cancer realigned my priorities. It awakened in me an understanding of how skewed my priorities were. Facing death helped me comprehend on a deep level the importance of what I choose to do with life." 

Formed in 2013 by members of the Dudley Manlove Quartet and Purr Gato, the band sees Bowievision as more than just a cover band. Mitchell doesn't affect a British accent, nor does he don an orange wig and an eyepatch. He and his band bring reverence to the project beyond just the looks. We asked Mitchell what inspired him to start Bowievision.

"As a quirky kid who did not fit in growing up in the deep South, I remember seeing Bowie on TV," he recalls. "Watching his videos on MTV — back when MTV actually played music — let me know that not only is it ok to be different, it is something that should be celebrated.  This was quite eye-opening in the pre-internet era where failing to conform or simply choosing to be different was met with resistance and, at times, violence.  Suddenly there were people like Bowie on TV expressing their fluidity in a way that gave me permission to let my freak flag fly.  In part, Bowievision is a reminder to me and to the diverse crowds who love Bowie's music that we are free to be who we are."

Sadly, we're also reminded that liver cancer is what took the great David Bowie from us in 2016. Apparently, Bowie had been diagnosed 18 months earlier but kept this news from the public. We asked Mitchell if he remembered where he was when he heard the news that the Starman had fallen. 

"I remember being at home and watching a few of the videos from the Blackstar release.  I was struck by the fragility of his voice and the vulnerability of his performance. The next morning I learned of his death.  Even in death, Bowie maintained his artistic integrity.  He seemed to die on his terms. In a way that was a work or artistic expression, a gift to his fans." 

Tonight's Music Heals: Beyond Cancer evening event is free and open to all ages. Join us from 6 to 8 PM in the KEXP Gathering Space [472 1st Ave North]. More information on the event here.

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