Ricky Gardiner, Bowie's Berlin-Era Guitarist, Dead at 73

L-R: Iggy Pop, Ricky Gardiner and David Bowie in concert, 1978
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Richard McCaffrey/Michael Ochs Archive/Getty Images

Ricky Gardiner, a brief but pivotal collaborator during the first stages of David Bowie's "Berlin" era, has died. He was 73 years old.

Iggy Pop, who toured with Bowie and Gardiner in 1977, confirmed Gardiner's passing Monday (May 16), writing on Facebook "Dearest Ricky, lovely, lovely man...nicest guy who ever played guitar. Thanks for the memories and the songs." A cause of death was not disclosed, though he had been diagnosed with Parkinson's disease.

Born in Edinburgh, Scotland in 1948, Gardiner was a founding member of prog rock group Beggars Opera, playing guitar for their entire tenure from 1969 to 1976. A year later, he played on the only solo album credited to Bowie's longtime producer Tony Visconti, and was duly recruited to work with the producer on their next project. At the time, Bowie - kicking a vicious drug habit with Pop in France - was looking to change musical directions.

READ MORE: When Bowie Broke Barriers in Berlin

Gardiner played on Bowie's Low, recorded partly at Hansa Studios in West Berlin; Low and follow-ups "Heroes" and Lodger would become an informal "Berlin" trilogy and seismic shift in Bowie's work. The guitarist also remained a key part of the sessions for Pop's Bowie-produced second solo album Lust for Life. Gardiner co-wrote with Bowie the music to the songs "Success" and "Neighborhood Threat," but came up on his own with the riff that would power one of the album's best-known songs, "The Passenger."

“The apple trees were in bloom and I was doodling on the guitar as I gazed at the trees,” Gardiner later said of coming up with the song. “I was not paying any attention to what I was playing. I was in a light dream enjoying the glorious spring morning. At a certain point my ear caught the chord sequence.”

Though Gardiner would step away from mainstream rock to raise a family with wife Virginia, he never stopped writing or playing; in 2006, he made public his battle with electrosensitivity, a condition (though not medically recognized) that renders individuals stricken by symptoms possibly caused by electromagnetic radiation.

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