David Bowie, Beautiful Genius
When I was in high school, back in the 1980’s, I was not that impressed with David Bowie I have to admit. IN the realm of high school students there were many different kinds of music, metal, hard rock, rock, pop, RnB and alternative. Bowie could sort of fit himself into almost any category at one time or another in his fifty years as one of the icons of Rock. Maybe that is why I didn’t get him then. Define what and who you are. Teenagers can be at times very black and white. At least in 1983 they were. I know I was.
I was a singer and taking lessons to become a classical soloist. I had a lot of genres in mind and as a kid I looked to famous performers to see how it was done. Madonna was a role model of sorts for girls, as was Cindy Lauper, Whitney Houston and Pat Benatar. Stevie Nicks was another I looked to as well as Lita Ford. Those were female singers and performers I understood. Bowie was an enigma. His music was so out there in my mind that I couldn’t get it. I was grasping at something that was so surreal that there almost nothing to hold onto. At the time I didn’t realize good art is like that.
What several of my hard rock, metal head friends and I did not realize was that Bowie was the first real glam rocker. Without Major Tom, and Space Oddity, without Ziggy Stardust the Sweet might not have taken off and one of the major influences on Motely Crue would never have existed. Bowie was the start of not just glam rock, but also Punk to a certain extent and alternative rock. Bowie was the man straddling all genres and doing it better than anybody and unlike others he was the authentic article. There was nothing manufactured about him or his music.
It was hard to imagine the man who sang Blue Jean, Fashion and Young Americans had been at the knife point of music ever since I was born. He sauntered onto our TVS through MTV long after Ziggy Stardust and Major Tom were retired, with this shock of blonde hair and a low voice that had this amazing range. I remember watching Modern Love and trying to figure him out. I had no idea until the 90’s that this svelte Brit was a real genius and every bit the rock god that his fans claimed him to be. When I started listening to his music as an adult I started to get him, and it was revelation to me. Bowie understood what music could do to a person, how words could change people’s perspective and how melody was like a cultural heartbeat. He was a complete artist to and this way of being probably gave him his genius. He was so authentic in everything he did that it stands the test of time.
The one hit that stopped us in our tracks had to be Under Pressure, which Bowie recorded with Queen in 1981. The idea of two legends, Freddy Mercury and David Bowie collaborating is almost more than an avid music buff could emotionally handle. What they created is one of the greatest moments in rock history. Every time I hear it I get the chills because the genius behind it, the story of a night fueled by the refuge of rock stars in the 80's, coke and how this song was born is mind boggling.
Bowie was also an accomplished painter and one gets a sense of layers of words, melody, base lines in his music. The artist as transcendent being. He was also an accomplished actor. Everything he did outside of his music creatively helped him in his performances. He became an all-round entertainer. Lots of musicians, singers are only capable of doing their one thing and doing it well. It takes a great talent to be able to go beyond one form of creativity and explore other talents. To have all of that encapsulate performances on the stage is mind blowing.
Unlike Madonna for instance who takes herself far too seriously and really does not have the talent to back herself up Bowie was the cheeky smart ass. He mocked, he poked fun. He presented to the world the phoniness of things others take for fact. He also explained how isolation from others would become part of our modern world when he wrote Space Oddity. As the 60’s grew to a close and the idea of communal spirit was dying, the 70’s with its loneliness, its separateness was coming and he saw it first. How he describes the fate of Major Tom, so far from home, utterly alone is literally almost devastating.
Now that David Bowie has left us its strange how the musical world seems colder. He had a great light with in him and as he grew older and his music more thoughtful that light seemed to grow brighter. His life seemed to become complete when he married Iman and they had their beautiful daughter Lexi. David Jones aka David Bowie grew up into a mature man, a father and husband. And yet he was still the legend, the mysterious Thin White Duke on stage. The special talent that makes a man able to separate his persona from himself and his true identity is one that not many people have.
Thank God that rock in all of its forms had David Bowie to help lead the way. He was weird, strange and beautiful. A glorious soul with that smile and that hair. Far ahead of his time and every generation that has had the chance to hear his music, see him perform has been better for it. He was a once in a lifetime artist. God bless his soul forever and may He comfort his family.