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Watch Michael Stipe Cover David Bowie's 'The Man Who Sold The World'

Former R.E.M. frontman Michael Stipe made a rare public appearance last night to perform a strangely airy version of David Bowie's "The Man Who Sold The World" on The Tonight Show. The performance comes ahead of two David Bowie tribute concerts taking place in New York City later this week, one at Carnegie Hall on Thursday, March 31 and one at Radio City Music Hall on Friday. Stipe is among the artists slated to perform both nights.

For his Tonight Show appearance, Stipe is joined onstage only by a pianist. Stipe's spare, delicately delivered version sounds almost orchestral at times but is delivered more like a quiet eulogy. It's sometimes chilling, but extremely moving.

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Corrected: March 30, 2016 at 12:00 AM EDT
An earlier version of this story stated Michael Stipe's appearance on The Tonight Show was his first public performance since Dec. 12, 2012. He has given other performances since then, including opening for Patti Smith.
Jackson Sinnenberg