When I saw the news this morning that David Bowie had died, I was absolutely shocked. This was the man who just a few days earlier had released his new album Blackstar on his 69th birthday and I had, rather naively, hoped that a new album could lead to the possibility of seeing him live on tour. Bowie was a true icon, a trailblazer and an innovator. He was one of a kind and his mastering of the art of reinvention, not to mention his influence, will never be matched.
I haven’t listened to every song that Bowie ever released and, at the age of 21, I didn’t experience the Bowie phenomenon in the 1970s first-hand. Instead, I discovered (and still am discovering) his music through his cultural legacy, my parents, curiosity, and through various film soundtracks from Frances Ha to Guardians of the Galaxy. I looked back on Bowie in the 70s and 80s in the same way that I do with multiple other artists from those eras, with that familiar feeling that I was born in the wrong decade and a slight sense of injustice, wondering why these kinds of artists don’t seem to exist today.
David Bowie created some amazing music – my personal favourites including ‘Young Americans’, ‘Rebel Rebel’ and ‘Fashion’. I remember seeing him as Ziggy Stardust when I was younger and thinking he was some kind of mythical creature. A key Bowie moment I remember was when, aged 16, I watched Cherie Currie come alive as she channelled Bowie in the film The Runaways, showing how Bowie taught many people that it was ok to be quirky, have different sides to yourself, be gender fluid and just to be yourself. That was the pivotal thing about Bowie, he never tried to fit in and by doing so he inspired others. Perhaps ironically, he was never in fashion because he had style, and style is timeless.
Two days before his death, Bowie had not only released a new album, but a bloody brilliant one at that: experimental, jazzy, unsettling, challenging and utterly unique. Aged 69, Bowie was still exciting and more importantly, fresh. Blackstar perfectly captures how Bowie was the king of reinvention and new sounds, but his music was always, undoubtedly, unique to him. His last single, ‘Lazarus’ which I chose as my track of the week at the start of the year, is an absolute masterpiece. In some ways it feels all the more tragic that Bowie has died in light of him releasing such progressive and wonderful music mere days before his death. Yet, the fact that ‘Lazarus’ was his last single is oddly beautiful and poignant, as he sings ‘Oh I’ll be free, Just like that bluebird.’
Goodbye, Starman. ☆