Monday, January 11, 2016

David Bowie, Dead at 69

Bowie looking utterly normal.
When I was little, I remember being up late--Mom usually let us stay up late on weekends--and watching The Midnight Special. I don't know how young I was, exactly. But young enough to be baffled at what I was seeing. A man in a bright red fright wig, bright makeup, high-heeled  platform shoes, and a strapless feather dress, singing.  "Does not compute," I thought, if not in those exact words. I had no idea what I was looking at, but I recognized it as daring, different, intriguing.

It was David Bowie, and my first concrete realization that maybe I was different too. I'm not saying I got why, exactly, and I'm not saying that whatever was driving Bowie to be a gender-bender in those days has anything to do with my own sexual identity (especially since I was clueless on that front at the time), but I felt kinship. and though I may have one or two details wrong, I never forgot it.

Along the way, as I started paying attention, I'd catch Bowie being Bowie, and still feel that pull of kinship (but alarming, unspoken kinship), when I saw his Diamond Dogs album cover. And as with Freddie Mercury and Elton John (more of that familiarity for no yet known reason), he was considered to be edgy and cool. I still don't know how he and they managed rock star status in the 70s without any notable backlash.

Bowie's memorable look from Labyrinth
Bowie dropped the glam-rock image over a few more years, and by the time I was in high school, Bowie had gone from Space Oddity to the MTV era. Suddenly, he was simultaneously a rock legend and a hip, with-it, video star. He had hit after hit, and was part of the soundtrack of my teenage years, culminating with a charity duet with Mick Jagger (he of similar otherness and legend status) with Dancing in the Streets.

Bowie started popping up in movies too, and whether the films themselves were notable or not, his image always was. There's something riveting about how Bowie looked, even when he wasn't trying to shock or alarm. The magnetism of his character in Labyrinth for instance is more memorable than anything else from the film.

There have undoubtedly been many other Bowie eras in his career that I didn't take such note of. He was noted for his constant reinvention, perhaps only rivaled by Madonna in that regard. But beyond the remixing and reissue of his 70s classic Fame (which featured John Lennon), they don't stand out in my memory. It doesn't matter. He was solidly, permanently part of the rock and roll Mount Olympus.

The passing of David Bowie is more than the death of a celebrity. And though it's not a personal gut punch, I'm positive it is for a lot of people. To some, I'm sure it's as momentous as the passing of Mercury, Elvis Presley or John Lennon. He's at least as important of an icon. RIP, Mr. Bowie. And RIP to another part of my life's soundtrack.


David Bowie Dies at Age 69 After Battling Cancer

David Bowie has died after a battle with cancer, his rep confirmed to Billboard. He was 69.

"David Bowie died peacefully today surrounded by his family after a courageous 18 month battle with cancer. While many of you will share in this loss, we ask that you respect the family’s privacy during their time of grief," read a statement posted on the artist's official social media accounts. . ."

Read more at: MSN

I couldn't find the exact Midnight Special that I can conjure from my memory, but here is David Bowie (in his Ziggy Stardust era) looking every bit as shocking, from that period.

And a much more mainstream, handsome Bowie from my high school years.

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