Now, I could start this off talking about the impact David Bowie had on the culture I grew up in. It had been quite clear for a long time that he had affected every section of the art community. There are many articles that show parallels and connections to him that we can play Six Degrees of David Bowie. In fact, for being someone from another planet, he has impacted my culture quite significantly.
As his last gift to us earthlings, Bowie gave us the beautiful album Black Star. When I first heard about Black Star, I wasn’t excited because we were getting a quick follow up to his solid The Next Day. I was particularly excited to see him so thrilled about the prospect of star KIC 8462852 having life that he paid homage to the idea by creating another work of art. Sadly, no aliens have been observed, but it would have been one hell of a departing gift for Ziggy. Don’t you think? Regardless, that is my attraction to him.
David Bowie is an artist who keeps his mind open and allows possibilities to spark his imagination and throws him into a creative frenzy. He never seems to be too concerned for his passions making him look too nerdy or too weird. That may have been why much of his lyrics adopt an outsider’s point of view, but it’s why I found him to be the most relatable artist. Every time I saw him perform or heard him sing or act, I knew that was 100% him. He was always genuine.
As I go back and look over David Bowie’s discography, it certainly reminds me of looking over a wine list. There’s quite a selection, but it’s hard to find someone who has a pallet for each choice. Also, just like wine, some of his material, such as the Berlin Trilogy, aged quite well over time, and for some people they themselves haven’t aged enough to appreciate the selection. I was one of those people.
Growing up I remember David Bowie being the Thin White Duke with the sexy songs. I would sing to myself Let’s Dance while peddling my way over to my girlfriends house. Then I would sing Dancing in the Street on my way home. I would sing along with Mercury and Bowie to their love song to humanity, Under Pressure. Then, when nobody was looking, I would sing China Girl. In fact, I blame Him for my pseudo English accent that permanently set into my singing voice.
Another great part of Bowie was that I could easily listen to him around the grandparents. Originally, to me he was that top ten artists with safe sounding hits. So, when I saw him take the stage next to Trent Reznor, my mind became blown. I was young, but it was at that moment when I realized he was so much more than the guy with the hits. He was the artist who wasn’t afraid to reinvent his style and passion for music. He had made a career out of being an iconoclast. He would build his image only to disassemble it and rebuild it again and again.
Much of consumerism America prefers their “artist” to stamp out hits, albums, whole bodies of work that are nothing but an imitation of the original money maker. However, true artists such as David Bowie in particular never conform to the demands of the public. They continue creating something new and inspired that reflects their current mindset. For example, I love the fact that those radio friendly hits I mentioned came out right after his most experimental phase. As I aged, my pallet now consistently hungers for those experiments during that Eno, Bowie, Visconti era.
During my time couch hopping, I also found myself personally embracing more of his later works. His lyrics and themes often portrayed a voyeuristic wanderer discovering humanity. It was one of the tracks buried in Earthling that particularly resonated with me, Searching for Satellites. The minimalist lyrics over wailing synths and guitars reflected the mood of a lonely vagabond packing and taking inventory of his personal possessions while flicking through the news on the TV, which is something I’ve experienced more than enough times. Somehow, that was always the trick to his profound lyrics. He could be singing about walking out of a spaceship, but for me it’s a soundtrack about shedding my past and walking into tomorrow.
As obituaries and eulogies pour out after news broke of Bowie leaving us, there’s one story from Duncan Jones that warmed me up. Back in Jones’s youth his father use to read SciFi tales to him. For me, this parallels my reading tales of black holes and quantum physics to my preschool daughter. I’m sure he also hoped that these tales would not only spark the imagination in his son but also illuminate the possibility of change. After all, David Bowie lived a life that proved that reinvention isn’t scary but rather beautiful.