I never thought of David Bowie as just a musician. He was a great songwriter and an incredible singer, but musician never seemed to sum him up. He was an artist, a magician, and a showman. I was never a huge fan. I loved many of his songs and appreciated all the talent he possessed, but I never dressed like him nor did I have any Bowie posters on my walls. I only bought one of his albums: Let’s Dance. On cassette. Everything else I ripped from CDs or stole off the Internet. Bowie himself was a thief, but an elegant one; one who left the scene of the crime richer than he found it.
From what I have read about him, the former David Jones enjoyed all art forms including books. The most well know example would be his fascination with George Orwell’s 1984. Bowie wanted to do a musical of it and ended up with a song I always loved, “1984.”* The paranoia of Orwell’s most famous novel perfectly suited the singer’s frame of mind in the 1970s. He was twitchy and dabbling in the occult, living off of cocaine and milk. Pulling white witches into his glittery embrace. Crackling with worry as he stared through the deep tinted windows of limousines. Even in such a wretched state he was always creating**, always reading–his songs were peppered with literary references. Bowie was a beautifully flawed visionary, an alien born on Earth, and his death–like his art–feels staged and somewhat surreal.
The fact that David Bowie is physically dead is irrelevant–David Bowie will never die. He led many lives in the space of 69 years and many of those personas are still influencing and affecting people in 2016 as they will in 2116 and beyond. Bowie influenced countless songwriters and bands who became legends themselves and went on to influence other songwriters and bands ad infinitum. Supposedly, we can all trace our lineage–as human beings–back to one, small apelike creature named Lucy in the heart of Africa. Even though Lucy died millions of years ago, she lives on in our DNA. It’s the same for Bowie. Death is just a concept, a rude explanation slapped together out of our fear of mortality. We physically die and yet we carry on, even if we never have children our genetic material is out there somewhere. And everyone who was ever inspired by Bowie to pick up an instrument or really take up any art form, they are his children.
*This is off Diamond Dogs, an album of his that is either over-rated or under-rated. I enjoy the fact that he played most of the guitars on it giving it a rough, raw feel.
** He played a part in the recreation of both Lou Reed and Iggy Pop. The latter’s The Idiot is an amazing album; if you have never heard it do so immediately.