Celebrating The Life and Death of David Bowie
To say I am a David Bowie fan would be an understatement.
I know I am not alone in my respect and appreciation for this unusual, out-of-this-world artist, and so I wanted to share some thoughts about the life and death of such an interesting man.
(Poor JStew has to come into work and stare at this every day as we share an office and I may have gone a bit overboard with my almost shrine-like wall decorations!)
David Bowie would have been 75 this past weekend. He passed away six years ago today after and private 18-month battle with liver cancer.
With a career that spanned decades, he managed to create, in his lifetime, an almost endless supply of reasons to admire him as an artist.
At the heart of his work seemed to be this strange dichotomy of not giving a crap about what other people thought of him, while simultaneously caring enough to get people to think about something else; something bigger.
We could talk all day about his different periods and personas, from Ziggy Stardust to the Thin White Duke and beyond.
We could spend countless hours discussing his many contributions to the world of music and also movies.
But I'd like to take a minute to point out one major thing that David Bowie did for the world, just by being himself; He called it like it was, and wasn't afraid of how what he said would make him sound...because he wasn't saying it for himself.
For instance, never one to shy away from saying what was on his mind and stand up for what he believed were issues of importance, whether through his lyrics or even through his personal interviews, he even put MTV on notice when it came to the disparity of black artists versus white artists featured in the station's programming.
The man was a thinker, and able to see the big picture where a lot of folks were blind. Take what he said in an interview he did back in 1999 for the BBC. If this doesn't prove just what a profound sense of perspective this visionary had about the world, I'm not sure what does. And his words could not have been more spot-on for even what's happening today, years after his passing.
Growing up as a child of the '80s, I was first introduced to David Bowie through Jim Henson's cult fantasy film, Labyrinth. And let me tell you, I was never the same after that.
Being a huge Henson fan to begin with, Bowie's larger-than-life almost muppet-esque persona was magnetic and totally intrigued my elementary school brain. But beyond that, his voice was captivating, even when what he was singing about was absolutely ridiculous!
For those who poo-poo the flick, I'd invite you to take a look at the documentary "Inside The Labyrinth" as Bowie himself explains why he took the Goblin King gig, and more importantly, how he came up with a musical score for the movie. Look closely and you'll see the star-power of Chaka Khan and Luthor Vandross as back up singers for the tunes! Can you even imagine?
It was actually that behind-the-scenes insight into his musical process that had me intrigued and led me to deep-dive into the discography and filmography of this enigmatic and charismatic artist.
As I studied Bowie, I kept coming across a common thread in interviews and stories about the man; He was as kind and generous in his performances and collaborations as he was mysterious in his behavior. And it seemed that if people did believe him to have a sense of bravado, they often learned later that it was much more likely he was disguising humility through humor, and not actually in possession of as large of an ego as previously thought.
There's no doubt he enjoyed joining his talented with the like-minded artist. Just take a look at these legendary performances.
Towards the end of his life, when he knew he was not long for this world, he was still working, still creating. His last projects featured in this amazing documentary the HBO put out just after he passed. If you haven't yet, check it out.
He was unlike anyone else that had come before, and there will likely be no one quite like him to come, in the future...although he seemed to come from the future, didn't he?
Bowie stood apart from the crowd, but tried, through his work, to bring people together.
That's not a bad legacy to leave behind.