He was born and raised in Manhattan, New York City and studied with drummers Max Roach and Elvin Jones before joining the Clark Terry Big Band in 1967. He was wounded during his tour in the Vietnam War but was able to hone his skills when he performed as part of the US Navy’s Drum and Bugle Corps. He met guitarist Carlos Alomar when they were both playing with Roy Ayers. Davis was hired by David Bowie in 1975 with Alomar and bassist George Murray for Young Americans. Davis formed the rhythm section which performed on a number of Bowie’s albums released in the 1970s. The snare sound used on Bowie’s Low album is considered one of the most influential musical recording aspects in popular music.
In the early 2000s, Davis played percussion on David Bowie’s live tours, including Bowie’s last tour, A Reality Tour, in 2003. The drummer for that band was Sterling Campbell, who was previously a student of Davis.
Davis died on April 6, 2016, after a battle with cancer.
With Roy Ayers
- Coffy (1973)
- Virgo Red (1973)
- Tear to a Smile (1975)
- Red, Black and Green (1973)
- You Send Me (1978)
- I’m the One for your Love Tonight (1987)
- Double Trouble (1992)
- Good Vibrations (1993)
- Naste′ (1995)
- Mahogany Vibe (2004)
With George Benson
- Good King Bad (CTI, 1975)
With David Bowie
- Young Americans (1975)
- Station to Station (1976)
- Low (1977)
- “Heroes” (1977)
- Stage (1978)
- Lodger (1979)
- Scary Monsters (And Super Creeps) (1980)
With Ronnie Foster
- Cheshire Cat (1975)
with Iggy Pop
- The Idiot (RCA, 1977)
With Stevie Wonder
- Journey Through the Secret Life of Plants (Motown, 1979) — “A Seed’s a Star/Tree Medley”
- Hotter Than July (Motown, 1980) — “Did I Hear You Say You Love Me,” “As If You Read My Mind”, “Master Blaster (Jammin’)”
- Original Musiquarium (Motown, 1982) — “Do I Do”
- Characters (Motown, 1987) — “Free”
With Jermaine Jackson
- Let’s Get Serious (Motown, 1980) — “Let’s Get Serious,” “Where Are You Now,” “You’re Supposed to Keep Your Love for Me”
- “Carlos Alomar Q&A”. Teenagewildlife.com. Retrieved 2011-10-11.
- “Sound and Vision”. Recordingology.
- “Features Stories”. Modern Drummer Magazine. Retrieved 20 March 2016.
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