David Bowie, RIP
by James Mann
It is a shock, awaking to find a hero has died. David Bowie was a part of my musical life since my tastes changed from The Archies and the Osmond Brothers. To hear he died from cancer at age 69, well, it doesn’t seem quite real. Bowie was eternal. He was always there, our cracked actor, always challenging, always seeking out new avenues, and taking us along for the ride.
I read a book a few years ago called The First Time I Heard David Bowie. It was interesting to me that depending on the location (the UK or the US), you either heard Ziggy Stardust (if you were in the UK) or, in America, “Let’s Dance”. Now, for true Bowie fans, “Let’s Dance” was near the nadir of his career, all MTV and white suits, but whatever works. To me it was “Space Oddity” that first caught my ear. It sounded so strange, and so wonderful, compared to the other dross on the radio.
And then I heard “Changes”, and found a friend. Bowie’s 1971 album, Hunky Dory, which I encountered years after its release, is my favorite Bowie work- I own at least 4 copies in various versions- and it’s magic hasn’t dimmed a bit since I was a kid. To me, the sound of Mick Ronson’s guitar on “Queen Bitch” was how rock and roll was supposed to sound, and “Life on Mars” and “Kooks” gave me a glimpse of a life outside my small, sheltered environment. The album began a run of masterpieces that few, if any artists can top- Ziggy Stardust, Aladdin Sane, Pin Ups, Diamond Dogs, Young Americans, Station to Station, Low and Heroes– all in 7 years. 7 f’n years. Amazing.
I’m going to listen to Hunky Dory again today, particularly “Fill Your Heart”:
Fill your heart with love today
Don’t play the game of time
Things that happened in the past
Only happened in your mind
Only in your mind-forget your mind
And you’ll be free-yea’
The writing’s on the wall
Free-yea’. And you can know it all if you choose.
Just remember lovers never lose
‘Cause they are free of thoughts unpure
And of thoughts unkind
Gentleness clears the soul
Love cleans the mind
And makes it free.</i>
David Bowie gave hope to the kooks, the oddballs, and the strange. He did it with love, respect and without judgment. He could rock like a beast or sing a ballad to make you weep. Remember him well. There was only one David Bowie. ◼