Dave Gahan, the lead singer of Depeche Mode, is one of the most beloved frontmen in the international music scene. Born in Epping, British Essex, on 9 May 1962, he turns 60 today. His name is David Callcott and for more than 40 years he has been setting the crowds on fire with his stage presence and his unmistakable deep baritone voice. While bandmate Martin Gore continues to be the lead author of Depeche Mode, Gahan has also contributed a number of songs on several albums. In recent years he has also made solo records and in collaboration with the Soulsavers. Here’s what you need to know about one of the most iconic musical artists on the planet.
Rebellious childhood and youth
Gahan comes from a working class family, both parents were bus drivers and divorced when he was very young. His mother has remarried and Dave has always regarded his stepfather as his real father, whose Welsh surname he also took. But the man died a few years later. Gahan had a rebellious adolescence, finishing three times in the juvenile court for crimes ranging from vandalism to car theft. “I was pretty wild. I loved the excitement of stealing an engine, screaming and being chased by the police,” he would later say of the time. He moved from one odd job to another, experiencing the explosion of the punk movement up close.
The birth of Depeche Mode
Already in high school Gahan met Martin Gore and Andy Fletcher, his future bandmates. In 1980 he met Vince Clarke, who was playing with Gore and Fletcher in Composition of Sound. Clarke notices Gahan at a club as he plays Heroes Bowie and proposes that he join his band as a frontman. Gahan accepts and suggests a new name, inspired by a fashion magazine. This is how i Depeche Mode.
What Depeche Mode meant
Gahan’s band was one of the pioneers of new wave and synthpop of the early 1980s. They have released 14 studio albums, four compilations and two remix albums. The band achieved global sales of over 100 million records. Success came from the first album, Speak & Spellof 1981. With Violatorin 1990, they conquered the world, thanks to singles Personal Jesus And Enjoy the Silence. A more experimental turn came with the next one Songs of Faith and Devotion (1993). After Exciter, a 2001 album, Gahan claimed to write half of the songs on the next album, threatening to leave the band in case of a refusal. In the end he was satisfied with 3 songs and this custom remained in the subsequent works of the band.
Dave Gahan as a soloist
In 2003, Gahan released his first solo album, Paper Monsters (which he co-wrote with multi-instrumentalist and friend Knox Chandler), followed by Paper Monsters Tour (including a performance at the 2003 Glastonbury Festival). The album was very successful. In 2007 the second solo album was released, called Hourglass, which was well received by critics and audiences. In recent years Gahan has collaborated with the Soulsavers on three albums (The Light the Dead Sea of 2012, Angels & Ghosts of 2015, Imposter of 2021 with covers by other artists).
Gahan and his inspirations
Over the years, Gahan has explained that he was influenced for his stage presence by Damned frontman Dave Vanian. But his inspirations were also David Bowie, James Brown, Elvis Presley and Prince. In the initial phase of his career Gahan was awkward and only after dozens of live performances did he shape his style as a charismatic and magnetic performer. Many trade magazines have included him in their rankings of the best singers or frontmen of all time. And his presence on stage did not go unnoticed even to an attentive eye like that of Quentin Tarantino. Gahan revealed that he was approached by the director to play a part in pulp Fiction (in the role that then went to Tim Roth instead).
Dave Gahan was married from 1985 to 1987 to Joanne Fox, with whom he had a son, Jack. The second marriage was in 1991 with Theresa Conroy, the press agent at the time of the band. They were together for four years and he moved to Los Angeles to be with his wife. He has been living in New York since 1997 and while in a recovery center he met his third and current wife, Jennifer Sklias (who did not know who Depeche Mode were). The couple married in 1999 and had a daughter, Stella Rose. More recently, in 2010, Gahan also adopted Jimmy, Sklias’ son during a previous relationship. Spiritually, the singer is a convert to the Greek Orthodox Church.
Dave Gahan’s health
Since the beginning of his career, Gahan has been addicted to drug use, particularly heroin. In the period following the success of Violator and of the move to Los Angeles he lost control: in ’93 he had a mild heart attack induced by drugs during a performance in New Orleans, then he attempted suicide by cutting his wrists. On May 28, 1996, he overdosed on speedball (a cocaine-heroin mix) in California and was clinically dead for a few minutes before rescuers were able to revive him. LA paramedics renamed him “The Cat” for his ability to survive death. At that point, Gahan, who also had charges that could cost him his expulsion from the US, decided to detox permanently by seeking help. in a rehabilitation center. In 2009, however, the singer was taken to hospital before a concert in Athens. It was thought he had a bout of gastroenteritis but an ultrasound revealed a malignant tumor in the bladder, which was successfully removed .