I am writing this post just days after Bowie’s death after an eighteen month battle with cancer. There has been much said about his life and work as an artist that I felt I might like to share my own Bowie experience.
That is to say, an intersection of backgrounds and curiosities on my part. I cannot say that I ever interacted with his art the way others have. Certainly, in the last ten or so years, I have appreciated him more than in my early life. Many stories have poured out during the last few days. Stories of seeing him in concert, or meeting him in person. I have to say, I missed the whole thing.
I did watch Labyrinth in theaters. I saw him on MTV a couple times.
If you think this is an anti-Bowie post, you’re wrong, quite the opposite. It’s just that I’ve come to appreciate some of the greats a little later in life. The Beetles would also fit in this category. Only recently have I grown to appreciate the absolute brilliance of Jim Morrison’s poetry-rock. Johnny Cash, Elvis, and extending to writers of yore: David Foster Wallace, Raymond Carver, Hemingway, et al. Sometimes I come to things later than everyone else. This is a product of who I am.
Those of you that know me well understand my early fundamentalist conditioning. Rock and Roll was evil, not just frowned upon. Devil music. From that point of view, Bowie was a strange proof of how society was being led straight to hell. A lanky, tall, Pied Piper with spiky hair and a voice with a four octave range… he had to be of the devil.
This is the greatness of the writer, performer, artist that is David Bowie: that someone without a direct fan connection recognizes the profound impact that the artist has had on creativity in the western world, and on someone like myself.
And still, his songs play in my head: Under Pressure, Major Tom, Changes. The tip of the iceberg, no doubt.
Fortunately for me, the chains of that limited perspective have been broken. It’s now, in my middle years, that I have come to a mature appreciation of the man and the artist. And it’s more than just the music, the poetry, the over the top performances. It’s also the masculinity of a man that completely embraces the feminine. A lot of people have called that gender bending, and that might be accurate. I never met him, so I cannot know for sure, but I believe Bowie might call it being human.