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.