And so, David Bowie has died. At the age of 69, battling Liver Cancer for 18 months without any public knowledge, he finally passed away today. So, as we did with Robin Williams, ‘If you Ask Me’ has to do another obituary for one of my personal heroes.
David Bowie was born as a part of the babyboomer generation, an age where the Second World War caused devestation, he was a man who had a brave new world to grow up in. And he grew into a very interesting world. Rock music, the collapse of imperialism, the cold war went on, and he was at the forefront of what I call the first evolution of rock. The 1970’s. The Beatles having dissolved, other bands took their sound, and manipulated it, and the outlandishness of the Sgt Pepper era spewed in pop culture, and we got Ziggy Stardust. Bowie lasted through the 80’s, 90’s, and 00’s, until today.
Bowie started off in a band, before going solo into his first album. His early folk music is mostly for collectors these days, and was not critically praised. But the man made his first change in 1969, when he released ‘A Space Oddity’. The song which made him popular. His metamorphosis again, from a rock star, to glam rock, and the famous image of Ziggy Stardust. With a backing band, we were all sure that he would be a part of popular culture for many years. He soon ditched Stardust, and became Aladdin Sane, Halloween Jack, and the Thin White Duke. Those were pretty outlandish personalities, amplified by the use of Cocaine. The effects were severe that it seemed Bowie was nothing. These personalities taking over his body.
This led to a move to Berlin, and the Berlin Trilogy; made with Brian Eno. These are my favourite albums. Low, Heroes, and Lodger were creative, ambient, and creepy beasts, but it brought David back; which was good. Scary Monsters and Super Freaks balanced the excesses of the Berlin era experimentation, with accessible rock. These albums and all before cemented Bowie as a megastar, and led to much critical and commercial praise. But the material began to get stale, with most of his 80’s material being…lackluster at best. There were good songs, but the artistic virility of Bowie seemed to die. Of course, when Black Tie, White Noise and Tin Machine came around, the artist was back.
And Bowie continued to release albums, becoming less regular and frequent as the 90’s and 00’s wore on, but he continued. And in the 2010’s, The Next Day and Blackstar were released, bringing Bowie to many younger listeners. But now the story ends.
I will miss Bowie. He was a creative and interesting man. His music has lasted this long. 40 something years of music is a great achievement, which will last the test of time. My friend Heather said it best:
‘I don’t think that I can ever know, much less could anybody else, what percentage of me is attributable to David, from the first moment my Dad sung ‘Space Oddity’ to me while I floated in the sea. It’s dramatic, it’s affected, it’s whatever; but I’m dragged under now.
I noticed everything, maybe even too much. I used to think you were saying my name in your songs, for god’s sake. I’m not going to wax lyrical about my spending all day crying; it’s hardly justifiable as something about me. I’m not going to try and tell you that David’s omnipotent eye saw what happened to me through school and intervened. He didn’t; it was me who intervened, playing his music on a half-wrecked old vinyl and struttingly asserting that “if I’m a freak, so be it!” But it’s not through any other vessel I was, or still am, able to create that feeling for myself.
I’m not going to post a picture of David with some half-sentimental quote or song reference. I can’t. I don’t want to see my world plastered with “Rest in Peace, David Bowie” when you didn’t know him. I just want to let the world know that navigating in life now feels like stumbling around on two legs where I’ve always been used to standing on four.
I’m still going to be vexed when they assert that your name is “BAA-wie” when you & I know it’s Bowie like a bow-tie. I’m still going to tell people that, no matter what they want to believe, your eyes aren’t different colours. I’m still going to be a silent film star to Life on Mars, an icon of the twentieth century to Rock n’ Roll Suicide, and a martyr to Starman. It’s for kids like you & me. I know.
Shave off my eyebrows and call me the world’s weirdo; I know it now. Who do I call up about this? I’ve never called you before.
They say never to meet your idols, and I never will.’
I think that says best what I am trying to convey. The man had a connection. And his creative genius will probably be emulated in the future. But never repeated. Spaceboy, you’re sleepy now. I end this blog post with the lyrics to Blackstar, which I link to you.