Lost in the ’80s: Ava Cherry

Hardcore David Bowie fans are probably familiar with the name Ava Cherry, but for the benefit of everyone else, Ava was Bowie’s lover in the early to mid ’70s, as well as one of his backup singers in the Astronettes during the Diamond Dogs/Young Americans Tour.  Bowie had plans for Cherry and the other Astronettes, producing an album for the trio that was New Wave before the term existed.  It also ended up being shelved for twenty years when things with their mutual management MainMan went sour.

That setback didn’t stop Cherry from pursuing a music career, though it was tough for her to break away from being “David Bowie’s lover.”  A 1980 album for RSO (Ripe!!!) caused a minor ripple on the Billboard Black Albums Chart, so when RSO bit the dust, Ava found herself with a new deal on Capitol Records.  The resulting album, Streetcar Named Desire, was a bit of a throwback, a funk/disco affair when New Wave and the music industry had finally caught up to Cherry.  It’s too bad, since while the title track and lead single (download) is perfectly serviceable, Cherry deserved a more forward-sounding approach that matched her image.  As it was, Streetcar sank with nary a trace.  Ava tried again with a dancier attempt, Picture Me, in 1987, but short of a couple of dance chart hits, it wasn’t the breakthrough she or Capitol were looking for.

Cherry went on to reunite with Luther Vandross, whom she sang backup with during the Bowie days – this time, however, she was singing backup for Luther.  Ava continues to record now and then, her most recent offering being a dance remake of “Hopelessly Devoted To You” from Grease that’s not half bad.

Since there’s no video for “Streetcar,” instead here’s a clip of a rough, haggard, coked-up Bowie warbling his way through a cover of “Footstompin’” on “The Dick Cavett Show” in 1974 with the Astronettes on back-up.  While she doesn’t sing on this track, Cherry steals the show with her dancing and fashion forward look … remember when you spot her, this is 1974, not 1983.

“Streetcar Named Desire” did not chart.

Get Ava Cherry music on Amazon or on Ava Cherry




  • Pete

    Wow, she really does steal away the focus of that performance, doesn't she? Love that outfit!

    I like the Streetcar track. Has a slight Prince/Sheila E. feel to it. Thanks for another great and informative post, John.

  • r

    That's really cool. The word was that Bowie was influenced by “Footstompin'” by The Flares for his “Fame” track.

  • JohnHughes

    Totally. Alomar nicked the lick!

  • Loni

    I knew Ava in the very early 70s, pre-Bowie stardom. We worked together at Marshall Fields,

  • les

    The astronettes sessions are back out 2009 NOW on Black Barbarella Recordings with a new album cover and sleevenotes, i should know as i did the cover!

  • les

    The astronettes sessions are back out 2009 NOW on Black Barbarella Recordings with a new album cover and sleevenotes, i should know as i did the cover!

  • les

    The astronettes sessions are back out 2009 NOW on Black Barbarella Recordings with a new album cover and sleevenotes, i should know as i did the cover!