Saturday, January 16, 2016

Sound + Vision

David Robert Jones, better known as David Bowie, but also known as Ziggy Stardust and the Thin White Duke, will be remembered for his theatrics and his numerous stage personas when he died earlier this week, and he certainly was an avatar of the visual element of rock and roll.  For me, though, the music will always be what Bowie was really all about.  I don't think of the splashy pre-MTV stagecraft Bowie perpetrated in the seventies.  I think of the accelerated, electric tempo of "Suffragette City," the crunchy, grinding guitars of "Ziggy Stardust," the heartfelt empathy of "Changes," and the impassioned soul of later songs like "Young Americans" and "Modern Love."  Many believe that Bowie could have been the dominant artist of the 1970s - he left that title to Elton John - if he hadn't changed directions too quickly.  Following Bowie's career was indeed a dizzying task, but the shards of brilliant and genius he left were certainly worth the effort to understand.
In the end, Bowie did dominate like no one else when he was in his prime.  Elton John himself acknowledged his debt to Bowie in a concert appearance in Los Angeles by playing Bowie's "Space Oddity" before segueing into his own "Rocket Man" (both songs about disenchanted astronauts).  His old friend Peter Frampton acknowledged his generosity as a musician, recalling his work with Bowie in the late eighties. Recording artists too numerous too mention - a list so diverse, it features artists I love and artists I despise - all paid tribute to the man after his surprise death was announced. He left a parting gift in a stage-musical a sequel that follows up on what happened to Thomas Newton, the humanoid alien Bowie played in the 1976 movie The Man Who Fell To Earth, who came to this planet to acquire water for his own planet and became a tycoon here.  The show is called Lazarus.  Bowie made sure he would exist long after he was gone.  It may be the most creative way to go out that has ever been conceived.  R.I.P. :-(                          

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