It seemed more than a little surreal to wake to news this morning that David Bowie had died from cancer at the age of 69. I know I betray my naivete here, but a part of us often wishes the artistic icons we grew up with would somehow always be there.
But until medical science figures out another way, mortality affects us all, even the rich, the famous and the groundbreaking. And while I don't tend to pay much attention to celebrity culture, it's that last one - groundbreaking - that seemingly compels me to write about Mr. Bowie today. That's because he wasn't a celebrity in the conventional sense of the word. Sure, he topped the charts and logged more than his fair share of headlines for a somewhat bigger-than-life lifestyle. But there was so much more to his story.
Unlike so many "artists" who top the charts and grab headlines today, he was the real deal, a modern-day Renaissance Man whose foundation was always the art. He played, he wrote, he produced, he influenced. He didn't follow the Zeitgeist of the day. He set it. And when the winds of change blew - indeed, before they blew - he set a new standard for others to follow.
You don't have to love - or even like - one of his songs to appreciate the broader impact his work had on our cultural landscape. And anyone who picks up a musical instrument, a paintbrush, a pen or any other artistic implement owes Mr. Bowie a thank you or two for never settling for whatever everyone else was doing, for being an artist first, for never forgetting the value of substantive contributions to the craft, and for always having the courage to sing in his own voice.
Your turn: Do you have a Bowie memory?