Monday, January 11, 2016

David Bowie, 1947-2016



The Missus had to be up anyway, but it was just light when I woke up yesterday morning. Still dark. Still fighting for covers with Little Man, who had crawled into our bed at some point. The warmth was tempting, but Little Dude was fussy and wanted some breakfast before the Missus headed out to her morning class, so I passed him over and laid back down, trying to get warm again. Out of habit, I grabbed my phone and the Missus grabbed hers and we scanned Facebook, her trying to wake up, me trying to chase down sleep again, the only light in the bedroom from our phones, illuminating our faces and that, that is when I saw the news that David Bowie had died.

Immediately, Starman started playing in my head. Then, Oh, You Pretty Things and I know the old Spotify Playlist would be getting a workout. The last time I think I can remember being that bummed out and genuinely sad that a musician had died was when I was a freshmen in college and George Harrison passed. I had that '1' album that the Beatles had released and I remember just sitting on the floor of my dorm room, in the dark, listening to it- which felt like an odd parallel for some reason. Though this time I wasn't going to start jamming out to Bowie with both Little Man and Little Dude still asleep.

Then, I began racking my brain, trying to remember the exact moment that I had become aware of the immortal genius of David Bowie. I couldn't find it... could be one of those vacations in the late 90s when my Uncle came out loaded down with mixtapes (still on cassette of course) and drove us all mad with the most sadistic clue in the history of 'I Spy' that lasted from Utah, all the way through Wyoming, Nebraska and into our driveway at home. Could be senior year of high school. I seem to recall finding Springsteen that year and quoting it in a letter I wrote to my journalism advisor. He, I think, responded with Bowie. I felt like I had a CD* at some point that had most of the classics on it. I remember days and weeks, listening to tracks like Young Americans and Life On Mars. Then I realized that like Ziggy Stardust, I didn't need to remember the exact moment he showed- it was like he was there all along.

True confession though: I don't think I've ever sat down and listened to one of his albums- which I'm going to need to remedy. I think I just float through Bowie songs individually or in a group or in a play list I've made myself. Little supernovas in my brain: the first time you heard Under Pressure (and totally stopped believing Vanilla Ice's bullshit explanation of how the hook for Ice, Ice Baby was really different from Under Pressure.) The opening of 'The Breakfast Club'- which doesn't even have a single one of Bowie's songs on the soundtrack, but uses that line from Changes in the opening shot that was just... perfect. There's no other word for it. Dead Man Walking from the soundtrack of 'The Saint' (which was a legit good movie- though I feel like Roger Moore should have had a cameo somewhere in it.) Mott The Hoople's All The Young Dudes (which for some reason I've always thought was an early Bowie track, but was in fact, just written by him- at least according to Wikipedia.)

His acting wasn't bad either. His appearance in 'Zoolander' was brilliant, but it was his turn as Pontius Pilate in 'The Last Temptation of Christ' that really blew my mind. (And while it didn't really click with me the way it did a lot of people, who can also forget The Goblin King in 'The Labyrinth'.)

I don't know. Everyone thinks they're immortal until they're not- and while people seemed amazed that a guy like Lemmy lasted as long as he did and assume that people like Keith Richards and Ozzy are well nigh immortal- because if something hasn't killed them by now, what can? Bowie felt different. There was a touch of immortality about him and I think people generally did assume that he would be here forever- not because of a lifestyle of sex and drugs and rock and roll, but because a talent so unique and original, so willing and able to evolve over the years and embrace change seems to be destined for immortality- and really, Bowie is. If civilization lasts a few more centuries (a debatable prospect to be sure), I expect that the music of David Robert Jones will be amongst the few from the 20th Century to stand the test of time.

He will be missed.

*I really wish I knew where that CD was. The Jean Genie, Rebel, Rebel, Suffragette City, Blue Jean, China Girl, Fame, Golden Years and I don't know how many others. It was the perfect Bowie mix.

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