High Five

Niki Luparelli on David Bowie

Niki Luparelli.
Hans Wendland
Niki Luparelli.

Niki Luparelli, a local musician and funny girl who bills herself as a “chanteuse, vaudevillian, and your boozy best new friend,” was around 17 when she first discovered David Bowie’s music through a guy she was dating at the time. Up until then she had what she describes as “old lady” taste in music: opera arias by Joan Sutherland and such.

But Bowie opened her world, and she’s taken her love of his music to the stage. With her band, the Gold Diggers, she’s performing a Bowie tribute this weekend at Johnny D’s.

“I try to keep it sounding as close as possible to the Thin White Duke. Well, as close as you can using a chick singer and a cabaret band,” Luparelli says. “We only use guitar on a couple of songs. Bowie, in his Berlin years, was really into legit cabaret, so I’d like to think he’d approve. If not, I’ll be waiting for my subpoena.”


We asked Luparelli to name five Bowie songs that are particularly interesting to sing from a woman’s perspective.

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1. “Suffragette City.” (“Once you start learning Bowie songs from the sheet music instead of the radio, you find out that he was never saying what you thought he was saying. I was doing ‘Suffragette City,’ and the whole time I always thought he said, ‘These mellow fat chicks just put a smile on my face.’ But what he’s saying is a little creepier: ‘I gotta straighten my face/ This mellow thighed chick just put my spine out of place.’”)

2. “Magic Dance.” (“He’s so gender-neutral in his songs, and in this one he never says what sex his baby is.”)

3. “All the Young Dudes.” (“It’s the only one that’s awkward for a woman to sing.”)

4. “Boys Keep Swinging.” (“It takes a sarcastic turn when I do it.”)


5. “Life on Mars?” (“It’s just my favorite song of his to sing.”)


Niki Luparelli & the Gold Diggers will perform at Johnny D’s on Saturday, 10 p.m. Tickets: $12. 617-776-2004,