David Bowie R.I.PJanuary 13, 2016
David Bowie is dead. The shape-shifting, mercurial performance artist who also happened to make music, died on January 10th, two days after his 69th birthday and the release of what has now turned out to be his final album.
As you know, dear reader, I don’t go into great detail about the history and the oeuvre of the person in my music obituaries. I’ll let music journalists do that. I go for the snapshot instead. I make it personal.
My first Bowie experience was through my mum bringing home Golden Years in 1975. My parents were big on music, covering the whole gamut from Country to Reggae (Trojan Records and Ska, not Roots or Dub), so we expected something good and we were not disappointed. Me and the rest of the little Pies were blown away by the musicianship, the other-worldliness of his voice, the whole thing. As young as we were, we felt the enormity of this song. We were then served a double whammy of Sound and Vision and Heroes in 1977. We played them, along with their B-sides A New Career In A New Town and V2 Schneider on heavy rotation, along with delights such as Abba, Queen, Earth Wind and Fire, Billy Ocean, Jethro Tull, The Clash and Ray Stevens’ The Streak!
A few years later, I heard Alabama song on the radio. It was seriously out there. I think it’s one of those marmite songs. You either love it, or hate it. I love it:
After that came a slew of singles in the 80s. Ashes to Ashes, Fashion, Wild is the Wind, Under Pressure (with Freddie Mercury), Peace on Earth/Little Drummer Boy (with Bing Crosby), Cat People, Let’s Dance and Scary Monsters. Ah, yes. Scary Monsters:
Space Oddity is a fantastic song. It was introduced to a whole new audience a couple of years ago by a Canadian astronaut, Commander Chris Hadfield, who sang it while playing guitar as he floated in his space ship. It was a beautiful YouTube video, which amassed a ridiculous amount of hits before it was pulled due to copyright issues (booooo!). I’ve since found out that it’s been put back on, with the blessing of The Thin White Duke himself. David Bowie: the gift that just keeps on giving.
I didn’t have much to do with Bowie’s work in the 90s and 2000s, but one of my brothers, in a game of musical ping pong, which we do on our phones from time to time, introduced me to this 90s track called Little Wonder. The song is sublime and the video is brilliant. It totally stands up today. I like a bit of drum and bass, but Bowie used elements of it in this song and managed to not sound like a twat in the process. What sorcery is this? How the hell does he do it?
And now we’re up to date. Bowie released an album called The Next Day in 2013. I heard the first single from it, Where are we now? I did not like it at all to start with, but it did grow on me and now I love it.
Finally, we have a video of one of his last songs from his final album Blackstar. The song Lazarus, and the video that goes with it, is sad and haunting. It’s been often cited as his farewell to his fans. You will notice that he fully engages in his performance right to the end. I don’t know how ill he was when he did this, but it’s a magnificent piece of work. A fitting end for a man who created much and influenced many. A debt that may never be fully repaid.
Farewell, you magnificent alien.