Monday, January 11, 2016

Ground Control to Major Tom

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?


Michael Manning said...

The older brother of a kid who lived two doors down from the neighborhood where I was raised was an excellent musician. His band would rehearse in the basement and "Space Oddity" was on their formidable Set List. While I never followed David Bowie that much, he was a true talent and I did admire the longevity of his career and many fascinating facts. For instance, the late Stevie Ray Vaughn playing guitar on the remake of "China Girl". I was not familiar with his collaboration with John Lennon nor the story behind the song "Fame" until now. He died much too soon.

Wendy said...

He was unique all right! Jumped around the stage on flamboyant spiderwebs and whatever else he did back then. I just remember how weird I thought he was at first. It was only later that I appreciated his true artistic and I'm-not-a-follower kind of entertainer.

We will miss him.