“Don’t believe in yourself
Don’t deceive with belief
with death’s release”
January 10th 2016 will forever be remembered as the day the world lost David Bowie. He innovated and created to the very end, having just released his (now) final album, barring the retrospectives, re-issues and studio outtakes that are sure to appear in the future. Thankfully, his inimitable work will resound in the collective conscience for generations to come. Few artists have left such an indelible mark on the world of entertainment and even fewer have been as unique or half as influential.
Bowie was always innovative, constantly updating and renewing, never afraid to move on without looking back; though the temptation to resurrect Ziggy Stardust and other such heroes may have been great during more difficult times. Instead he continued to create, up to his dying days, not only influencing his peers but allowing himself to be influenced by the world around him.
“I still don’t know what I was waiting for
And my time was running wild
A million dead-end streets
And every time I thought I’d got it made
It seemed the taste was not so sweet
So I turned myself to face me
But I’ve never caught a glimpse
Of how the others must see the faker
I’m much too fast to take that test.”
John Peel once said:
“Pop is a car-boot sale, a parade of trinkets, junk and handicrafts, most worthless, some capable of giving a few moments of pleasure with a few glorious items made more glorious by their unexpected appearance in this market. Then in an unpredictable double-bluff, the worthless can, within a few years, take on great worth and the glorious become merely laughable.”
Bowie’s appearance in said market was always unexpected and mostly glorious, with any apparently worthless work standing the test of time and taking on great worth.
“Written in pain, written in awe
By a puzzled man who questioned
What we were here for.”
It’s incredible that one man has had such a profound effect on the human race and left such a massive cultural footprint behind. To say that I am saddened by his passing is not really the best way to put it. I didn’t have the privilege of knowing him, we were not friends, like most people my relationship with David Bowie is one of fan – artist.
Nevertheless, for me, as I’m sure it is for many, it goes much deeper than that; he has been a part of my life for longer than I can remember, his work has always been there, his influence has spread to other artists whose music I also love. It’s kind of strange because that familiar figure, with all his guises, is not there anymore, they’ll be no more interviews with those mismatched eyes and that broad smile on his face and his self deprecating laughter, no more groundbreaking albums and no more parts being played.
His music will live forever though, and the memories we have all created that are intertwined with his incomparable body of work cannot be taken away from us. My earliest are of hearing ‘Ashes to Ashes’ on the radio, Major Tom already known to all. Then there’s my Mum’s copies of ‘Aladdin Sane’ and ‘Pin Ups’ with their striking cover art. Then came all those hits from the 80s, ‘Lets Dance’, ‘Absolute Beginners’ and ‘China Girl’ – someone had a copy, I no longer remember who. And of course the collaborations on ‘Dancing in the Street’ with Mick Jagger for Band/Live Aid and the unforgettable ‘Under Pressure’ with Queen. Which also reminds me of the stunning performance of ‘Heroes’ at Live Aid.
But it was as a young adult that I really discovered Bowie, my best friend introducing me to ‘Hunky Dory’, which along with ‘Space Oddity’ (a.k.a ‘David Bowie’) got played to death in the first home I ever owned. I once tried to get tickets for a “secret” gig at a small London venue but it was such an exclusive (comeback) show that not even the touts could get hold of them; I had to resign myself to never seeing him play live and to being content with ‘Live from Santa Monica’ and ‘At the Beeb’.
With his passing it is this evoking of bittersweet memories of how and when his work touched us that forces us to reexamine our own lives and contemplate our own existences. And therein lies the sadness – I’m not sad that David Bowie has died; he led a full and rich life and was one of the most significant artists in the history of humanity, I’m sad for what his death means to me, to everyone he touched and to our society. It moves me deeply to think that where once there was a constant that could be relied upon to challenge and inspire in equal measure, whilst sound tracking our very existence, now there is an empty space.
“I’m stuck with a valuable friend
“I’m happy. Hope you’re happy, too.”
One flash of light
But no smoking pistol…”
Rest in Peace David Robert Jones, you will be sorely missed.