David Bowie

All day my social media feeds have been pretty much nothing but tributes to David Bowie, who died just four days after releasing his final album.

You know you have a seriously doughnut-shaped record collection when one of the giants of 20th and 21st century music passes on and you realised don’t own a single one of their records. But his biggest hits were still stuck in my head this morning, “Life on Mars”, “Space Oddity”, “Starman”, “Heroes”. His standards are part of the air we breathe. And his artistic legacy is woven into the DNA of just about every genre of popular music that came after him. To quote Matt Stevens, he’s in the same league as Miles Davis and The Beatles.

Like Lemmy, David Bowie was a one-off who did it his way without following trends. One thing that made him unique was they way he stood outside and above narrow musical tribes; he simultaneously belonged to nobody and to everybody. He combined both ground-breaking style and genuine musical substance in a way unmatched by anyone else. He left whole genres in his wake; artists who based their entire sound around just one period in his ever-changing output after Bowie himself had moved on to something else. He also had great taste in musicians to act as a foil. Just look at the guitarists he worked with over the years; Mick Ronson, Robert Fripp, Stevie Ray Vaughan, Nile Rogers, Earl Slick.

Even though I’ve never been a hardcore fan, it’s difficult to imagine popular music without him. So enough of those who would police other people’s grief, whether it’s a snobbish disdain or some elitist claim of exclusive ownership as a “true fan”. It’s one of those times when if you have nothing positive to say, it’s better saying nothing. Music clearly never touched some people’s souls, even if when some of them started their writing careers supposedly as a music critics. Can’t they even sit on their self-righteous thinkpieces for a couple of days?

David Bowie was one of the true greats, whose work had a huge impact on music and on wider culture. Let us celebrate and remember that.

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6 Responses to David Bowie

  1. Ian Redfearn says:

    Well said.

  2. One of the most mind-blowing revelations I ever came to was something Nile Rodgers said about “Let’s Dance”: it was a record made with the assumption that the previous twenty years of popular music had never happened, like rock’n'roll from an alternate universe. But then again, “rock’n'roll from an alternate universe” is pretty much Bowie in toto, isn’t it?

  3. Tim Hall says:

    The only other artist who bears comparison is probably Kate Bush. Again, a complete one-off, strong combination of musical substance and powerful imagery, and hugely influential for reason that go far beyond the actual music.

    Hopefully she will be with us for a good many years yet.

  4. Tom B says:

    Well said Tim.
    I believe nobody can truly call themselves a Bowie fan. By that I mean that his output and style changed over the years to such a degree that nobody can say they liked all of it – but everybody probably liked some of it – and that was his genius. I was talking with a colleague yesterday and we both agreed we liked Bowie, but for totally different reasons. The musical style and era I loved was one she was not keen on and vice-versa. Therefore I couldn’t call myself a Bowie fan but I am a fan of his early seventies era – Hunky Dory ranks in my top ten albums of all time.

  5. David Miner says:

    David Bowie what can I say. I have a hole in my heart, a void in my life. The identity he had with people was multi faceted and cross generational. I am thinking of him and what he gave to me. I know I never new him personally but feel through some strange way cosmically he new me. I love you David Bowie, thank you for the forever memories.

  6. Synthetase says:

    Well said, Tim. I’ve never been a big Bowie fan, but I do like some of his stuff up until about the 80s.

    I have a friend who is a huge Bowie fan, loved absolutely everything he did. She was in tears when she heard and ended up getting drunk in a way I’ve only ever seen people do when someone really close to them has died. Made me realise how close you really get to music and how it is often used by people at a time when they really need it.