There has been a flood of David Bowie everything this week, and rightfully so. His offering to the art world will be sorely missed.
He transformed the cultural landscape musically, and dramatically, touching all aspects of culture, fashion, and art. Many artists become artists with the assistance of inspiration of the Bowie aesthetic.
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He was a renaissance man with a grasp of music from R&B, to Hip-Hop, to Metal, Industrial, Avant-Garde and would call on these differing styles of music and make it his own. He worked with an impressive list of musical geniuses in their own right including: Luther Vandross, Trent Reznor, John Lennon, and Stevie Ray Vaughn enhancing their music as well.
He was Ziggy, the Thin White Duke, a Spaceman, a shapeshifter, and a guru with a forward eye on what was next and making it sound authentically like “Bowie”. He conducted this orchestra until the ripe old age of 69, delivering his last record as a terminally ill cancer patient. Rife with symbolism, a brilliant and calculated ending that will most likely be canonized in Fine Arts and Humanities studies for years to come.
And what that sound is can never be defined, when one says “that sounds like Bowie” it certainly wasn’t the music they were talking about. It was the mystique of sounding like exactly what you wanted to sound like whenever you wanted to. Cutting with ease like a hot knife in butter, transitioning the fringes to the mainstream simply because he willed it.
But that’s not the reason he will be missed. Some sentimental part of me, and troves of others, has his music set as background of the best, worst, and most destructive parts of their lives….. and, while it might be selfish, some of the memories I have of the soundtrack are the only way that I know how to pay respect to my favorite artist…. So here we go…..
- I remember being a 6 year old kid and seeing the “Ashes to Ashes” video for the first time on MTV … late night, laying on my basement floor in Cleveland, Ohio wondering when the elephants were coming to the circus on the TV. Still one of my favorites.
- Driving to Kentucky to see my family in my rusted out Chevy Blazer and my mix-tapes, always with my favorite Bowie song “Drive in Saturday” and screaming it at the top of my lungs……
- Big Jim….. My ex-girlfriends neighbor who turned me onto so much great music….. Jim was a chemist by trade, and we would sit and smoke cigarettes, amongst other stuff, on his porch and talk about how beautiful Janis Joplin was, how Jimi was God, how amazing My Life with the Thrill Kill Cult was, and of course how innovative an album Ziggy Stardust was.
- Watching Bowie play Andy Warhol in Basquiat with Dennis Hopper, Gary Oldman, and Courtney Love all in the same movie. I remember going nuts when it came out, and can appreciate my favorite singer in a movie about one of my favorite artists.
- The memory of my first real band…. The aptly named Jaundice trying to emulate the Bowie idea and turn it into gold…. I wore a lot of makeup then, slept on a couch, lived in my car for a bit, worked at a greasy video store, listened to Earthling nonstop and lived that dream…… I miss that band. I thought we were really good. I thought that Bowie would approve.
- Iggy Pop, Lou Reed, Mott the Hoople, Philly Soul, Brian Eno, T-Rex and all those other aces acts that I was turned onto simply because they were connected with him somehow.
- The first homosexual man that I had open and honest dialogue with after we bro’ed out over our love of music and especially Bowie. We got really high, tweaked even, and he told me what it was like being a gay man in America. One of the most interesting 8 hours spent with one person that I will never forget.
- The first time I saw him live during the Reality tour in 2003, and how he was like 56, and sang “Halo Spaceboy” with the vigor and energy of a 20 something. The best concert I have ever been to. I remember Macy Gray opened for him…. Remember her…. He name dropped bands like Grandaddy, and Mercury Rev and I went and bought their albums the day after the show.
- The day my daughter wanted a cat…. And I said no….. and I conceded on one condition…. And so now we now have a cat named Bowie.
And so on….there are so many more memories, many that I just can’t sort out…
The day that he died and my wife told me to go on the internet and there it was, and the punch in the gut that it felt like, even though we never met…..
All those sentimentalities come from the fact that, like Lemmy the week before, I guess you expect these figures to always be there. As if as long as they are alive, and larger than life, you yourself feel somewhat immortal.
And then you realize that the art they create is timeless, and that small thread that connects you transcends time and space. Their art enhances the best and worst times of your life and that’s OK, those experiences and memories ultimately is what makes you…… you… The memories I have are from each aspect of my life, from when I was a child until I had children myself.
The idea of Bowie continues to inspire me, and affords me a reason to try and be open to the very small, and somewhat silly, differences that cause a lot of the pain in the world. I say the “idea of Bowie” because I never met the guy…. I did not cry when he died, I am not going to his funeral, but I will mourn him as someone who changed a lot of lives, provided a fresh perspective, and one of a kind art that gave millions of fans the chance to be open and honest about who they were.
So, prayers to Bowie and his family, cheers to his fans and to that thing that makes us….. us…
Continue making memories….
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