By Dennis Hartley
(Originally posted on Digby’s Hullabaloo on January 11, 2016)
Live to your rebirth and do what you will
(Oh by jingo)
Forget all I’ve said, please bear me no ill
(Oh by jingo)
After all, after all
(Pushing through the market square, so many mothers sighing…) I woke up this morning to get ready for work, turned on the Today show (…news had just come over, we had five years left to cry in) and saw the lead story (…news guy wept and told us, earth was really dying…cried so much his face was wet, and I knew he was not lying). No, not him! Fuck!
When one is at a loss for words after a great artist dies, it’s not uncommon to default to the old standby that “(he or she) meant so much, to so many people.” Of David Bowie, it may be more accurate for one to say that “he was so many people, who meant so much.”
Bowie invented the idea of “re-invention”. It’s also possible that he invented a working time machine, because he was always ahead of the curve (or leading the herd). He was the poster boy for “postmodern”. Space rock? Meet Major Tom. Glam rock? Meet Ziggy Stardust. Doom rock? Meet the Diamond Dog. Neo soul? Meet the Thin White Duke. Electronica? Ich bin ein Berliner. New Romantic? We all know Major Tom’s a junkie…
This one is hitting me hard. I’m 59 years old, so I’m getting a little used to watching the musical icons I grew up with dropping like flies…but this is one is hitting me hard. We’re talking Bob Marley and John Lennon; this is a significant loss to the music world.
Favorite Bowie album? For me that’s like choosing a favorite child. If pressed, I’d have to say my favorite Bowie period would be the Mick Ronson years (Space Oddity, Hunky Dory, The Man Who Sold the World, The Rise and Fall of Ziggy Stardust and the Spiders from Mars, Alladin Sane, and Pinups). There was something magical about the Bowie and Ronno dynamic; right up there with Daltrey and Townshend, Plant and Page, Ozzy and Tony, and Jagger and Richards. Luckily, this era was captured for posterity in D.A. Pennebaker’s 1973 concert film, Ziggy Stardust and the Spiders from Mars: the Motion Picture. Visually, the film is less than spectacular, but the performances are mesmerizing.
I’m sure his family had understandable reasons for keeping mum on his illness, and I respect that; but I can’t help but speculate on whether or not Bowie’s highly-developed sense of theatre prompted him to choreograph his demise into a sort of farewell installation piece. Consider: his final album (which he had to know was going to be his swan song) was released on his 69th birthday January 8…2 days prior to his death. It’s as if he anticipated the great sense of loss amongst his fans; it’s a reassurance, a form of grief counselling: “It’s alright. I got my affairs in order; came up with a few odds and ends here to leave you with…it’s OK. Enjoy! It’s only rock’n’roll. After all, after all…”