Monday, January 11, 2016


I can't pinpoint when I figured out David Bowie existed for me. Even though his "old stuff" (a statement that sounds ridiculous when you think of how present so much of his "old stuff" sounds) had certainly gotten into my head by the time I really became interested in music, I'd guess it was "Let's Dance" and his presence on MTV brought him into my sphere. And, I'm sure it didn't hurt the Duran Duran-obsessed me that they touted Bowie as a big influence so OF COURSE I had to love him too.

Not that it was hard to love Bowie when you're a fat girl that loved theater and theatricality and wearing funky clothes and didn't quite know where the hell she was going to land or if she was ever going to be loved. He was an elegant, stylish presence, assuring those of us who might not have felt like the regular world wanted anything to do with us oddballs and weirdos and freaks that we were going to be just fine in whatever form we wished to take. He was a patron saint of the strange.

What I dug about Bowie was how he was one of the few artists, if the ONLY artist, who could try different genres of music as he aged and not make it feel like a gross cashgrab or sad attempt to stay relevant. He made a fucking electronica album at 50, for Christ’s sake. I loved the album cover of “Earthling”, him with his back to the camera, wearing an Alexander McQueen full-length coat with the Union Jack emblazoned on it. I suppose that’s an aside, but it was that “fuck you, I’m David Bowie” spirit that I loved. Of course he was going to make an electronica album. Of course he was.

David Bowie was cool, seemingly without effort. If you ask me, he established a certain level of cool that most (if not all) of us will never be able to come close to meeting. I mean, I think I’m maybe...Midwest Cool but I’ll never be Bowie Cool.  He was cool without effort, without being that guy going around, tugging at our sleeves and saying “hey, hey, hey, hey everyone, aren’t I cool? Aren’t I edgy? Look at how edgy and different and weeeeeird I am!”  When it feels like most of pop culture nowadays relies on shock value and people insisting they are unique special snowflake flowers for fun and profit, David Bowie was an original. THE original.

We’ll probably never hear the full story about his illness and death, which seems right to me. As awful as it feels that he’s dead, it also seems so right – dare I say, rather cool – that instead of making a maudlin announcement a year or so ago, putting us all on notice that his demise was imminent, he made a record that, in retrospect, is his telling us just a bit of his story of the last months of his life. I get the sense he didn’t want his art to be viewed with any sort of kindness – he didn’t want people to go easy on him because he was terminally ill. You know how people are. He knew how people are.

Purely by accident, my husband and I were on a bit of a Bowie tear this weekend – the cable channel Palladia was showing DA Pennebaker’s “Ziggy Stardust and the Spiders from Mars”, which I had never seen. My mind was blown – not by his musicianship or his voice, because duh– but by the fact that this eyebrow-free, stringbean-bodied, henna’d mothercusser was doing fucking MIME on a stage in front of thousands, wearing a shorty kimono sans trousers and knee-high silky boots and people were LOSING THEIR MINDS. And this wasn’t just some dude who had a small niche audience that dug the cut of his jib, he was blowing up HUGE. That amazes me.  It also amused me, because how can it not? The sack of this guy, the spine on this dude, deciding that's how he was going to roll and holy shit, it worked out. IT WORKED.

On January 9th, I tweeted "Day two of thinking about the tremendous impact David Bowie has had on popular culture. This might go on for a while." I thought I'd get to ponder what additional impact he was going to have as he entered what we all probably imagined was the last, oh, 30, 40, 50 years of his life. It's still kind of hard to wrap my head around his being dead because he was so damn present in my (our?) universe, even in the years between albums, even in his retirement from public life. He, no, no.  

He is.