Cover artwork for ’Tis A Pity She Was A WhoreWritten by: David Bowie
Recorded: June 2014; 5 January, 20, 22 April 2015
Producers: David Bowie, Tony Visconti

Released: 10 November 2014

David Bowie: vocals
Donny McCaslin: saxophone
Tim Lefebvre: bass guitar
Jason Lindner: Wurlitzer, Prophet ’08, Prophet 12, Mopho X4
Mark Guiliana: drums, Roland SPD-SX
Erin Tonkon: vocals

Available on:
Blackstar
Nothing Has Changed

First released in demo form as a digital download and a b-side of ‘Sue (Or In A Season Of Crime)’, ‘’Tis A Pity She Was A Whore’ was re-recorded in 2015 for the Blackstar album.

If Vorticists wrote Rock Music it might have sounded like this.
David Bowie, November 2014

David Bowie had originally hoped to record two songs with the Maria Schneider Orchestra, but time constraints meant they were only able to work on ‘Sue (Or In A Season Of Crime)’.

He contacted me about a song he had started. He had another one, too, but I didn’t have time for two. I was getting ready to record my new album, and I wasn’t even sure I had time for one, but he brought it over and we sat and listened to it to see if we could do something with it together and have me arrange it for my band.
Maria Schneider
MinnPost, 2 September 2015

The song takes its title from John Ford’s 17th century tragedy ‘Tis Pity She’s a Whore, although the lyrics blend modern slang (“Man, she punched me like a dude”) with World War One imagery (“That was patrol/This is the war”). Furthermore, “Hold your mad hands” is the title and opening line of an anti-slavery sonnet published in 1797 by Robert Southey.

Bowie wrote the song and recorded his demo version shortly after seeing Donny McCaslin’s quartet perform at Manhattan’s 55 Bar on 1 June 2014.

I first met David through Maria Schneider. I’ve been in her group for about ten years or so. She and David were talking about collaborating. Then she was calling me up, looking for recommendations about different aspects of what they were doing. We did two small group workshops for ‘Sue’, with David, Ryan Keberle – a trombone player from Maria’s band – myself and the rhythm section. I recommended the drummer from my band, Mark Guiliana, to play on it. After the first workshop, David came with Maria and Tony Visconti to hear my band play at the 55 Bar, a local spot in New York. The next morning he emailed me and said that he had written a song based on what he’d heard last night and wondered if I interested in recording it. After I picked my jaw up off the floor – he was so polite about it, just so generous in what he said – I said, “Absolutely, love to.” So he sent me a demo version he’d made at home. He had programmed the drum, the bass, he had played the saxophone solo on it. That was ‘’Tis A Pity She Was A Whore’. Then pretty quickly it was, “How about we do two or three tunes?” Then I think Maria suggested to him, “Why don’t you have Donny’s band do a whole record with you?” That was how it started.
Donny McCaslin, 31 October 2015
Uncut, January 2016

The original recording is unusual for being entirely performed by Bowie. In addition to vocals, he recorded guitars, tenor saxophone, piano, synthesizers and drum machine.

‘’Tis A Pity She Was A Whore’ is pretty experimental as well. I think it’s a really, really good sign for music how out there that song is; he’s like, “I don’t care. This is what I’m hearing.” And you can hear him on the track how excited about it he is; he even yells at the end of it [laughs].
Tim Lefebvre
Observer.com, 20 January 2016