Thursday, January 14, 2016

David Bowie

I had big plans to write a lot about culture and post that up this week, but then on Monday morning we all woke up to the shocking news that David Bowie had died.

You younger scuts born after 1990 simply might not realise how significant Bowie was to anyone growing during the 1980s. His breakthrough single was Space Oddity, and even though it was released and was a hit in 1979, it does NOT sound in any way dated. The music itself was layered, beautiful, and powerful, and the lyrics were descriptive, sad yet joyful at the same time.

Then Bowie went off and experimented with his look, most significantly the notion of androgyny, sexual fluidity, and identity. He rather famously said that he met his first wife Angie when they both had sex with the same man - I've no idea how true this is, but they did have a very open marriage for the decade they were together. There was the character Aladdin Sane, with the shock of red hair and red lightning bolt across one eye. Ziggy Stardust, with the big circle on his forehead. There was the Thin White Duke, which corresponded with his time in LA and some serious cocaine usage. Then there was the move to Berlin and an attempt to get away from the drugs with The Man Who Fell To Earth. And the Pierrot clown from the Ashes to Ashes video - amazing song, amazing video. And who hasn't seen Jareth the Goblin king? Because without Bowie, the film Labyrinth would have been, well, a lot flatter. He also experimented with being 'normal', but his sheer genius made him the ultimate outsider. And it could be said that his last great character was Lazarus, presented to us posthumously on the album he released mere days before he died. It's kind of fitting.

The great songs and the great characters developed together, played off each other, kickstarted new themes, ideas, songs. It's no secret that Bowie's career in acting also influenced his own 'characters' he played. He was a true Renaissance man: a musician and singer, a songwriter, a painter, a very shrewd businessman, an actor, a fashion icon, a cultural icon, a drag artist of sorts, a pusher of boundaries, a visionary. Bowie predicted just how ubiquitous the Internet would become, and how it would change the relationship between celebrities and their fans. He also was one of the first musical artists to release albums over the Internet.

I think it's kind of true to his nature that he continued to make music and art right to the end, even though he knew he was dying. His music was part of the soundtrack of my growing up, we all knew the words to many of his songs, so obviously I've listened to Bowie quite a lot over the past few days. It's been emotional.

Goodbye Starman, have a safe journey home.


This gif was created by UK artist Helen Green, and is entitled Time May Change Me

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