His students refer to him as the rock ‘n’ roll professor — Grammy winning York University professor Rob Bowman has been penning his legacy in the music industry for over 40 years.
At just 15 years old, Bowman started writing for a music magazine in Toronto, which had him rubbing shoulders with some iconic artists.
“My first interview was T-Bone Walker,” Bowman told CityNews. “My second interview was with John Lee Hooker. It’s been a good life. I even spent three days with Bob Marley and the Wailers when I was 20.”
Bowman is up for a Grammy Award this year for his work on the liner notes of Jackie Shane’s album Any Other Way. Since 1987 he has been nominated for six Grammy Awards as either a producer or writer. In 1995 he won his first Grammy.
“I didn’t think we were going to win. I didn’t even think we would get nominated,” he says. “I remember sitting at the awards show and when it got to my award, they said ‘The winner is Ro…’ — I just remember them saying the beginning of my name and then what happened was like a scene out of the movies. Everything went in slow motion. I couldn’t believe what was happening.”
The unexpected win was followed by a surprising phone call.
“Prime Minister Jean Chrétien called me. They actually tried to get a hold of me three times after I won. I never thought about a Prime Minister caring if I won. I always wanted to win a Grammy Award for myself, but I never thought about the Prime Minister calling.”
It may be an understatement to say Bowman has had an exciting life in the music business — from hobnobbing with the biggest names to touring with them, he’s done it all.
He has written the program for the Rock ‘N’ Roll Hall of Fame induction ceremony for the past two decades, which involves in depth interviews with the inductees.
He also wrote a book in the late 90’s called Soulsville, U.S.A.: The Story of Stax Records. Rolling Stones guitarist Keith Richards enjoyed the book so much, he invited Bowman to tour with the band.
“I went on the road with the Stones for three weeks. They wanted someone to interview them about their art, about their music. They didn’t want someone to ask them about sex and drugs, which was already written about a billion times. I remember sitting with Keith on a couch in Australia and having an out of body experience. I remember screaming at him from the stage as a little kid and now I am sitting beside him.”
Bowman is nominated for the Best Historical Grammy Award this year. The Grammy Awards will air on CityTV with red carpet coverage starting at 7 p.m. E.T.