A promise to a friend: Remembering how David Bowie saved Marc Bolan’s son Rolan
We’re dipping into the Far Out Magazine vault to bring you a heartwarming story of David Bowie’s touching generosity. The kindness and care he showed for the son of his dear friend, Marc Bolan.
When the iconic figure of glam-rock and lead singer of T-Rex, Marc Bolan, sadly died following a fatal car crash in 1977 the musical world was in mourning. The singer had transcended the underbelly of glam rock and had become a fully-fledged pop star, even helming his own television show. The loss was felt across the country. But while many were looking at the widespread grief, David Bowie was paying attention a little closer to home.
In the car alongside Bolan was his then-girlfriend, Gloria Jones, who had joined Bolan for a night out of the house. Jones was driving the car at the time and sadly lost control of the vehicle hitting a tree. It propelled Bolan out of the car, dying as a result of his injuries while Jones escaped unharmed. Luckily, their son Rolan was left at home with his grandparents while the two parents enjoyed a night out.
Once the gravity of the situation became apparent, the messy details of Bolan’s death soon arose as a conversation about inheritance was raised. While Bolan and Jones were known to be a couple, Marc was still legally married, a common occurrence in seventies rock circles. It led to his fortune, following the success of T-Rex and other solo projects, to be kept away from Jones and his son.
Rolan, who was just two-years-old at the time of Marc’s death, recounted to the Daily Mail: “My parents liked to take me everywhere with them but they left me with my grandparents while they went to dinner. If I’d been in my usual place in the back there was no way I’d have survived. My mother had a broken jaw, leg and foot and severe internal injuries and was too ill to be told Dad had died.”
The sudden death of Bolan couldn’t have come at a worse time. The singer had just started to find his feet following a battle with heavy addiction and a lack of public appetite for his music. Following a run-in with David Bowie, Bolan had begun to turn it all around, he had begun to take life seriously again and was changing his debauched ways.
As Rolan explained: “The terrible irony is that he’d slowed down his lifestyle because he took his responsibilities as a parent very seriously.”
The subsequent legal battle for Bolan’s estate left both Rolan and his mother relatively destitute: “My mother went from a millionaire lifestyle to virtual poverty,” Rolan explained. “We lived in Los Angeles and things got very tough.”
This is where Marc’s longtime friend and confidant, the Starman, David Bowie stepped in. The Godfather to Rolan, Bowie’s integrity would not allow him to sit idly by as his Godson suffered. He diverted his attention away from the grief of losing Marc and instead decided to pay homage to their friendship by ensuring that Bolan’s family would not go without.
Rolan said of The Thin White Duke‘s influence and help: “David’s generosity helped us to survive… It wasn’t just the financial help – He kept in regular touch by phone and his first and last words were always: ‘Don’t hesitate to tell me if there’s anything I can do.’
“He’d shrug off our thanks, saying it was the least he could do for the family of a good friend.” The financial help finished in 1994 when Bolan’s legal wife, June Child, passed away and Rolan was handed his father’s estate, while Gloria Jones went on to run an orphanage.
We’d imagine Rolan Bolan and his mother Gloria Jones wouldn’t have got to where they are today without the grand generosity of David Bowie in their time of need.