Unless you've been under a rock the past 24 hours or so, you know that David Bowie has passed away at the age of 69. After I read about it (about twenty minutes after rolling out of bed), I felt a personal sort of loss that celebrity deaths rarely evoke for me. There are many people who're much bigger Bowie fans than me. After "Tonight" came out, I sort of lost track of Bowie, but I always made it a point to at least check out whatever it was he released. It was never, ever boring. It was always original.
My old buddy Dylan has a much deeper connection with David Bowie, one that has made him feel loss in a much more intense way than most of us. He sent me two takes. I told him I was only going to publish one of them, but they're both too good to not post. I'm indebted to him for letting me share such a personal, painful story.
My sister introduced me to Bowie, and continued to curate my musical tastes around him up to her death. Still, I continued to follow his musical and character growth\changes. His moves seemed to parallel my life. Tin Machine echoed my own need for back-to-basics sensibilities at a time when I was feeling overwhelmed. "I'm Afraid of Americans" gave me the noise I needed to drown out the fears and loud doubts in my conscience. His personas jigged and jagged like a Hoosier driving after the first snow of the season. Some worked, others didn't, but I always admired the effort.I've lost track of how many Bowie albums I own. So many studio albums and compilation albums of his work have been produced that I doubt there is any completely accurate discography available. The full impact of his body of work is incalculable, and will most decidedly continue to grow postmortem. However, here are 10 facts about his work:
1.) There is no greater R&R album than "The Rise and Fall of Ziggy Stardust and the Spiders from Mars."
2.) Bowie's portrayal of John Merrick in a stage production of "The Elephant Man" for PBS was one of the greatest mixes of ego and talent prior to U2's last album release.
3.) "Changes" will continue to be the anthem for awkward, outcast teens for decades to come.
4.) "Labyrinth." That is all I need to say here.
5.) Even in his 60s, he continued to create vital music that spoke to a part of your soul you never knew existed.
6.) His cover and subsequent music video of "Dancin' in the Streets" with Jagger is your favorite guilty pleasure. Don't deny it.
7.) Amanda and I took our mothers to see him in concert. He opened with "White Light\White Heat" by VU, and it actually improved on what Reed and Cale did. (Incidentally, it was also my mom's first rock concert.)
8.) He only put out one truly bad album in his entire career, "Never Let me Down." He made up for the lackluster music with more theatrics than a pre-teen girl readying her hair for the first day of school.
9.) He was married to Iman, which proves he was actually a wizard.
10.) Listening to the song "Heroes" will make you simultaneously the happiest and the most melancholy that you have ever felt in your life.
11.) He wrote and recorded a new album in the past year, likely while looking into the abyss. Music was that vital to him. I can appreciate that.
Some will call those opinions. Opinions foster debate. The above items are indisputable. Goodnight, Thin White Duke. Your music will live eternal.
David Bowie and my sister, Laura, have been unshakably linked in my conscience since the first day she dropped the needle on "The Rise and Fall of Ziggy Stardust and the Spiders from Mars," and bade me to listen. She was killed in a car accident when she was 22 years old, and I was 18. I still own all of her old Bowie albums, and listen to them often, thinking of her and what she would tell me about him. She curated a lot of my musical tastes, and introduced me to many bands and songwriters I did not have access to in our small, Southern Indiana town (These were in the pre-internet, pre-all-information-access days.); however, it always came back to Bowie. He was the touchstone for both of us. When we fought, as siblings do, we would always fall back on his music and find common ground again.
In mourning, we often think of the unsaid thing. The lost "I love you," or the forgotten, "Goodbye." I remember in those days between her death and her funeral thinking of all of the things left unsaid between us, and, most prominent for me was not thanking her for gift of music, and especially Bowie. It was years after losing her that listening to his music stopped being painful.His death, and the surprise nature of it, therefore has struck a personal chord with me in a way no other celebrity loss has. Certainly, I have mourned an actor I appreciated, or a musician I have loved, but this is the first, and likely the last, who will make me feel as though I have somehow lost Laura, again. Our touchstone, our home base, our link is gone, but his legacy lives. Listening to his songs this morning was supposed to be a celebration, but instead it is painful again. Certainly, it won't last as long this time, and soon I will hear them as a celebration not only of his life, but of my relationship with my sister and a reminder of what she did for me. For now, the pain will suffice as that reminder, and that's okay.