By Undeadpool 11 Comments
Yesterday I, and many the world over, awoke to what was possibly the most shocking news I could imagine: David Bowie had died. Apparently he'd been diagnosed with liver cancer 18 months ago and simply hadn't gone public with it, but going back and watching the video for Lazarus, it's clear that he knew his days were numbered and the number was getting awfully low. Two things struck me about this: the first is the massive wave of denial followed by shock that I experienced and, based on others' writings online, I was not alone. But WHY? Bowie was 69 years old and an avid consumer of several kinds of highly destructive recreational drugs during the 1970s (cocaine being the most obvious), and when a rockstar dies between the ages of 45 and 70, it's not precisely a shock. Hell, we lost Lemmy just two weeks earlier, and while people were sad, they were not SURPRISED. Bowie's death was greeted with not just sorrow but abject SHOCK. And I think part of that has to do with who David Bowie was.
I think what it boils down to is simply this: if ANYONE was going to turn out to be an immortal space alien who just visiting Earth for a laugh and a decades-long vacation: it was going to be Bowie. The man was a mononym without even trying (I keep switching back and forth in this very post!) because when someone referred to simply "Bowie," they sure as shit weren't talking about the cowboy and inventor of the eponymous knife. Even Giant Bomb's own Brad Shoemaker took to Twitter to express not just grief but, again, the SURPRISE of it. Bowie truly seemed like he'd outlive us all, his album before Blackstar showcased that he was still vibrant and able to make strange, wonderfully new art in both the songs and music videos, and even Blackstar's more reflective, darker tones (now, obviously, much more meaningful) showed the world that he wasn't going anywhere. For almost 50 years, Bowie reinvented and reinvigorated himself and his music, and it might sound childish, and it is, but there was a tiny part of me that truly believed that he COULD be the one exception to the rule "everyone dies."
The second thing is that everyone posting memorials and memories of him did so in almost completely different periods of his career. I have never seen the Internet, that vast, uncontrollable mass of people, come together in such a singular voice to express such singular sorrow in so many unique and different ways. You could see imagery of his cosmic Ziggy Stardust, his more buttoned up Thin White Duke, his modern phase, and all of them were from people for whom THAT was THEIR David Bowie and ALL of them are correct. No artist has had the career that Bowie has, over FOUR DECADES of not just being relevant, but being cutting-edge. While critics both in the media and the industry itself criticized "new" music, as continues today, as being a passing fad or artistically bankrupt, Bowie exposed that this was not a realistic point, but was being made out of fear for becoming irrelevant.
David Bowie didn't have to worry about becoming irrelevant, he was a genius. Though even if he didn't realize it, he never abandoned his credo of standing up for what was considered "weird," or those considered "outsiders," and while he may not have exactly had a prolific rap phase, you can see that he had absolutely no fear and a great deal of respect for what they were setting out to accomplish. Likewise, instead of decrying industrial rock as the "death of music," or whatever crap heap people always pile at the altar of new music, he decided to collaborate with a little band called Nine Inch Nails and THAT is how you STAY relevant musically, not by trying to tear down the next generation, but by helping them up.
So before the contrarians who mistake disagreeing with a popular opinion for critical thought REALLY marshal their resources and remind us that there are one or two things to possibly dislike, though removing context from those things SURE does help, (and I understand if you don't LIKE Bowie...to an extent, again he's so musically diverse, that it is a LITTLE difficult to believe there's not a single track to find to like, but that's music), let us celebrate the life of a musician who made us question every single truth in music by showing us that there are no absolutes. From outsider to the absolute epitome of cool who never gave up and never became irrelevant, here's to you, David Bowie. Long live the King of the Strange.