“There’s a Starman waiting in the sky. He’d like to come and meet us but he thinks he’d blow our mind.” – David Bowie, from the song Starman
UPon hearing of the recent death of David Bowie this past Sunday, I have decided to listen to his entire discography — yes, all 27 albums from 1967 – 2016. I’m familiar with about three of his songs – Changes, I’m Afraid of Americans, and Pressure (released by Queen), and while I enjoy them and in fact was obsessed with them when I first discovered them a few summers ago, I know nothing about David Bowie and hence fail to understand why his death has impacted people to the extent that it has. (It’s a bit similar to when Michael Jackson died and I was like “Who is that? I know he did Thriller….”)
COOL FACTS ABOUT DAVID BOWIE (conclusion drawn from a perusal of his wiki biography)
- Despite being committed to being a S T A R (not just a musician, but a literal rock star) from the age of 16, David Bowie’s first 13 years of composition, collaboration, and performance did not lead to the wide-spread critical acclaim that he sought. It wasn’t until his 5th album in 1972, The Rise and Fall of Ziggy Stardust, that Bowie achieved his goal. Then suddenly all of his previous albums were super popular.
- Bowie’s success in 1972 was in part the result of his decision to perform with a band, but make his image central to the band, and to make his image an entirely artificial one, constructed for the benefit of the viewer. That’s right people – his music was great but no one cared until he turned it into a performance.
- Bowie cultivated various images throughout his career, each one vastly different from one another in image, personality, and musical style. In part, these personalities were chosen based on what he (or he & his manager, who knows) believed would be the most shock-inducing. So while many people *cough* myself *cough* believe David Bowie to be bisexual and effeminate, quotes from Bowie indicate that these characteristics were exclusive to his stage character Ziggy Startdust, and not a reflection of his own personality. This says a lot about Bowie – willing to take on any persona, no matter how looked down upon, if it would attract attention or challenge societal norms. Which causes one to wonder…
- Is David Bowie being sincere in this 1983 interview, where he challenges MTV to explain why they play predominantly white artists and refuse to play equally talented Black artists on their station. Is Bowie intelligently accentuating the issue of white normalization on American television just because it was an unpopular view at the time, or because it was an issue Bowie actually deeply cared about? It’s difficult to know for sure, but fortunately for me, who David Bowie was as a person is not essential to appreciating who David Bowie was as a musician or artist. (Although if it’s important to you, check out this article, which briefly describes his charity work. Or just google creepy things like “David bowie’s personal life” or “David bowie wife/kids/gossip.” Whatever you’re into.)
- If there’s one thing to take away from Bowie’s early life bio, it’s that he was a driven, ambitious, and innovative individual with clear goals, high standards, and a willingness to take great risks. For example, over the course of just one year, Bowie signed on with four different bands, dropping each one without looking back when he felt they could’t take him where he wanted to go. He was also willing to fire at least three different managers, with one firing ending in the loss of all future profits from the music he had made thus far. That takes serious guts and an unwavering commitment to one’s goals. David Bowie did’t “wish” he could be a star one day, or “hope” he could one day achieve musical fame. From the start, David Bowie had a vision of who he would be of one day, and consistently rejected anyone and anything he perceived to be limiting him, including his stage personas, managers, band mates, and entire bands.
- David Bowie definitely did drugs.
In contrast to most music lovers, I have little interest in the personal life, music videos or live performances of artists I enjoy listening to, and David Bowie is no exception. However, I have been told that Labrynth is a must see movie starring Bowie, so I’ll try and get around to that some time this year. (Such commitment, I know…) If you have any David Bowie music video recommendations, please let me know. In the mean time, I’m excited to listen to every STUDIO (not live) album he ever made, in chronological order.
THE BEST PICTURE OF DAVID BOWIE
Tune in next time to find out: who is Iggy Pop? (Apparently, he wrote music with Bowie…)