Monday, January 11, 2016

Time Takes a Cigarette: The Sounds and Visions of David Bowie

(GIF via Helen Green)

I've never written an obituary before so bare with me as I try to write-up something that could possibly surmise the importance and legacy of the one and only David Bowie.

Waking up to the text messages "David Bowie died" is not something I'll soon forget. It seemed like a bad dream. Almost as if I was still asleep and living in a ruined world. Yet here we are and the world is without Bowie. As the internet pours out emotion after emotion and tribute after tribute, I almost feel at a loss for words. What else can be said? In some ways, it seems rather difficult to turn a eulogy into something other than a personal statement. What did this person mean to me and why is that so special? For the first time, I've found myself actually saddened by the loss of a celebrity. Even the passing of Michael Jackson and Lou Reed did not resonate with me in this sense. Today felt like a true loss; this feels personal.

An inspiration to be honest, creative, and true, he was an idol for those that felt estranged and alienated. For decades, David Bowie was his true self, whatever that happened to be at the time. From the Mask, to Ziggy Stardust, from the Thin White Duke to Aladdin Sane and the Man Who Fell to Earth, they were all characters, but they were all Bowie. A person unafraid to push every limit to the extreme, a person so daring and unafraid; a true hero. His image changed constantly and he was as progressive as one can get. Not only in music, but in fashion, imagery, and ideas. The androgynous alien for anyone that felt like a freak, outsider, punk, misfit, or just plain lost. He was captain of the spacecraft and ready to greet you with open arms. He was not only beyond gender, but beyond human; David Bowie was everything.

For me, Bowie came through my parents and Nirvana's classic unplugged selection "The Man Who Sold the World". From there, it was an exploration through a trove of amazement and the decades worth of his work still leave me with much to uncover. From his folk stylings of "Space Oddity" to his industrial "I'm Afraid of Americans" and his sensational new-wave disco epic Let's Dance, Bowie's mark on pop-culture is incomparable. His influence beyond compare. A chameleon that transcended time and space and into my own life. In my junior year of high school, I saw Bowie live with my dad. A truly memorable performance even at the time since we both had chalked it up as the worst concert we had ever been too (this still holds true). In retrospect, it was a night with a legend. The star in the flesh. His classic pop hits were my favorites towards the end of high school ("Suffragette City" was my alarm clock for months on end) and his krautrock, electronic pioneering, Berlin trilogy fueled my college listenings giving way to Can, Kraftwerk and Neu!. There was a time in Paris (again with my dad) when we heard Pin-Ups playing on vinyl in some boutique, another memory etched in my mind. He even followed me along to my retail days and made for some of the most enjoyable 3-5 minutes of my day. The most recently listened to song on my iTunes prior to playing the most somber yet life affirming version of "Heroes" this morning? His latest single "Lazarus". It never ended.

The idea of generations growing up without Bowie feels strange and rather impossible since his output was so vital to my life. In another memorial, someone mentioned that in the billions of years that the Earth has existed, we were lucky to be alive in the time of Bowie. Future earthlings will only wish themselves so lucky. Through it all, he was at every turn, showing up in unique and surprising ways beyond my own personal circumstances. He was there in Sue Jorge's brilliant covers for The Life Aquatic, his cameo in Zoolander, the brief appearances with Arcade Fire and TV on the Radio. Even as we grew close to the end, his prolific career never flickered. It never burned out. His most recent videos, the astonishing "Blackstar" and "Lazarus", continued to showcase his remarkable talent. A fond farewell and early goodbye that is all too real. So, where are we now? It's still too soon for these feelings to sink into my mind. I keep rubbing my eyes in the hopes I wake up from this moonage daydream. Yet planet earth is blue and there really is nothing I can do.

David Bowie was a true rock star, icon, and artist in every sense of the word. From ashes to ashes and dusk to dusk, thank you Mr. Bowie for your incredible sounds and visions. The stars do indeed look very different today.




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