Reflections on Bowie

11 Jan

I don’t remember when I first heard David Bowie, but I know when I first started LISTENING to him.  It was in the summer before my senior year of high school.  I was on a mission to track down every record on Rolling Stone’s 100 greatest list and “The Rise and Fall of Ziggy Stardust and The Spiders from Mars” was one of the first I absorbed.  Until then, I’d known, more or less, the “hits”.  But from the day I first bought my Ziggy cassette at the local “Believe in Music” I was more or less hooked.

Shortly thereafter, I caught the “Glass Spider” tour. Although it blew me away at the time, today, it comes off as misguided and almost laughably overdone, although the music still holds up, the production itself suggests nothing more than the work of a guy who thought way too highly of “Cats.”  Still, as a cultural experience for an impressionable 17-year-old, it was tough to beat.  He covered the Velvet Underground that night–a new experience for my rather provincial teenage ears and one that sent me scrambling to hear more.  (In retrospect, my review of that show was the first fully realized piece I wrote in high school).

Bowie had that effect on me and millions of others.  Even though I didn’t especially care for his late-period work and sort of drifted from him over the years, he was a critical guidepost. He absorbed more trends than he set, but he was like a gateway drug that ushered me backward to the Velvets and Brecht, parallel to Iggy, the Dolls and Eno and forward into electronic, ambient and other styles.  The guy had songs.  And taste.  Or, to steal one of his lines, Sound and Vision.  From what I’ve heard of his final album (“Blackstar” released last Friday, on his 69th birthday), he stayed that way until the very end.  My life has been more interesting and I’m probably a good bit smarter and more tasteful for having been exposed to him.  That’s about all you can ask of an artist and Bowie was, without a doubt one of the greatest.

 

 

 

 

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One Response to “Reflections on Bowie”

  1. utbobby January 15, 2016 at 8:31 pm #

    I hope you’re sharing this with your students. Your message is profound, and your voice is pristine, which is a frilly way, I suppose, of saying I’m really digging it.

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