I’m not certain when David Bowie first impressed himself in my brain, but I’m pretty sure it was during the Grammy awards in 1975. I was a little kid sitting on a shag carpet in our den in a small city in Kentucky, and then this:
Yes, that’s host Andy Williams introducing the young superstar Bowie, who begins by addressing “Ladies and gentlemen, and others” and then meanders, with a touch of French, through the presentation for the best R&B performance by a female artist. Aretha Franklin wins, accepts a kiss from the presenter, and says, “Wow, this is so good I could kiss David Bowie.”
Get in line, Aretha.
So much has been said and written about David Bowie today (a good day for Facebook for a change?) that I’m overwhelmed with memories of him and his work — his songs, his films, his albums, his outfits, his hairstyles, his amazing ability to tell entire stories in three-minute songs. I didn’t follow Bowie’s career closely over the last couple of decades, but it’s impossible to overstate his significance to those of us who grew up in his long cultural shadow.
I’ve seen a number of people say that Bowie’s power lies somehow in his ambiguity — his toying with gender identity and sexual preference before such play was fashionable, the deliberate opaqueness of many of his lyrics — but I don’t think he was that much of a shapeshifter.
Bowie’s work seemed to say that anything could be possible — and that everything would somehow be alright if we slip out of the clothes that society has laid out for us. His songs consistently found the magical, the mystical, even the fun in the everyday. His romanticization of the lives of outsiders — from aliens to the ostracized — asserted that every life and every day mattered, no matter what lay ahead.
A few things that struck my eyes or ears today:
This is apparently from a German TV program in 1969:
And the same song a few years later on “Midnight Special” in 1973:
And how about “Fame” on “Soul Train” in 1975:
I can’t embed all of Nicholas Roeg’s masterpiece The Man Who Fell to Earth here, but check out the trippy trailer:
And take a look at the Austrailia-set video for “Let’s Dance”, which explores themes of cultural isolation via the Aboriginal characters:
David Bowie and the members of Queen composed “Under Pressure” together, spontaneously.
‘Cause love’s such an old-fashioned word
And love dares you to care for
The people on the edge of the night
And love dares you to change our way of
Caring about ourselves
This is our last dance
This is our last dance
This is ourselves
This video for “Lazarus” was released just a few days ago:
I guess very few people knew that David Bowie was dying of cancer, but he obviously knew when he made that video. What a way to go out.
The title of this post is from “Memory of a Free Festival”: