It’s taken me a couple of days to process the death of David Bowie.
He was someone who always seemed larger than life to me. I can remember hearing “Space Oddity” on the radio as a kid, and being blown away by the concept that here was a pop song on the radio that told an honest to goodness science fiction story. The Rise And Fall Of Ziggy Stardust And The Spiders From Mars was one of those albums that I played on repeat endlessly during my twenties. He scared me and broke my heart at the same time in The Man Who Fell To Earth and again in The Hunger and once more in Labyrinth. I memorized the surreal dystopian “Future Legend” monologue from Diamond Dogs:
“And in the death, as the last few corpses lay
Rotting on the slimy thoroughfare
The shutters lifted in inches
In temperance building high on poacher’s hill
And red mutant eyes gaze down on hunger city
No more big wheels
Fleas the size of rats sucked on rats the size of cats
And ten thousand peoploids split into small tribes
Coveting the highest of the sterile skyscrapers
Like packs of dogs assaulting the glass fronts of love-me avenue
Ripping and rewrapping mink and shiny silver fox, now legwarmers
Family badge of sapphire and cracked emerald, any day now
The year of the diamond dogs
This ain’t rock’n’roll, this is genocide!
And yet, what I think of most of all, from the perspective of an artist, is how he was always, first and foremost, a craftsman of exceptional skill. Under his fabulous glam rags and makeup, his unearthly beauty, his New Wave William Burroughs sensibility, he was a man who embodied creative discipline. As a producer he demanded perfection from his band, as a performer he never gave anything less.
The self-imposed phases of his career were much more than just props and costumes, he pushed himself musically, he explored new forms, he was never content to do tomorrow what he had done yesterday.
He released a new album and opened a new show the day before he died. That, more than anything else, is how I want to remember him. Never stop working, never rest on what you’ve already done, keep moving, keep inventing, creating, singing, dancing, writing, living…
There’s a starman waiting in the sky.