Keep On

We’ve lost another artist I admire. If you have any connection to popular culture–or really, if you have any connection to consensus reality–you’ve heard that David Bowie died Sunday.

I was never a rabid fan. Enthusiastic, perhaps, but not rabid. And, just to be upfront, my tastes might well be described as common: my favorite album is Diamond Dogs and my favorite song is “The Man Who Sold the World”. Don’t take that to mean I dislike what he’s done since 1974. Quite the contrary. But your first encounter with something often gets a point boost in the memory standings and Diamond Dogs was the first Bowie album I bought, back in those nearly-forgotten days when the LP was the pinnacle of audio technology.

I didn’t buy it when it was first released; I’m not quite that old, thanks. I didn’t get into Bowie until the early eighties. If my memory of those ancient days can be trusted, the first popular music concert I went to was his show at the Tacoma Dome on the Serious Moonlight tour*. That was 1983; you do the math. No, I still don’t go to a lot of concerts.

* The Tubes opened that show. I’m probably going to piss a few people off by saying this, but I hated their set, to the point where I didn’t enjoy Bowie’s set as much as I might otherwise. Given their towering reputation, what does it say about me that I thought the performance was so sloppy and self-indulgent that I’ve never been able to stomach the idea of exploring their music?

I digress, as usual.

Much has been said about Bowie’s musical flexibility; his ability to reinvent himself is astounding, especially in combination with his productivity: an album a year from 1969 through 1980.

That’s not what I most admire about him, however. My admiration is for his ability to say what he had to say and shut up when he didn’t have anything to say. No endless retreads of styles he was done with just to please the audience. Quite willing to let a year or two–or ten–go by without an album release.

Hmm. That makes it sound like I’m picturing him lounging around the house in his pajamas. Perhaps it’s better to call it his ability to choose the right way to say what he had to say. Acting–stage and screen–gave him an avenue to express things that didn’t come across musically. And Bowie was as flexible an actor as a musician, choosing widely disparate roles.

So once again, the world is diminished. I’m going to double-down on what I said when we lost Leonard Nimoy and Terry Pratchett: don’t let the world shrink. Do some creating of your own. Build something positive. That’s the best way to remember those we’ve lost. Sure, it may take several of us to do as much good, to bring as much joy, as one Bowie, Nimoy, or Pratchett–but there are a hell of a lot of “severals” in the world.

6 thoughts on “Keep On

  1. My fist show was Day on the Green with the same tour. As I recall, Oingo Boingo was the opener. The Tubes were horrible and Bowie killed it.

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  2. My favorite was “Young Americans”,” and I was glad when it was featured in “20 Feet from Stardom.” I feel the same as you–I was never a fan, either, but I was appreciative of his amazing ability to accomplish the many bursts of artistry and imagination that he did and still remain philosophical. I heard a clip from him about why artists shouldn’t purchase limousines–Google the two words if you have a minute.

    I feel that with his passing (which was a shock to everyone except, of course, his near and dear), an irreplaceable piece of cutlure has gone. I never watched “Star Trek” either but felt the same about Leonard NImoy. Thanks for the encouraging words at the end–Bowie might have responded, “We can be heroes for just one day.”

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    • I’m hoping to someday find someone who favors both Young Americans and “I’m Afraid of Americans” above all other Bowie material. Gotta be at least one out there.

      Not having much luck with Google today. Maybe in a few weeks when the news stories start falling out of the top hundred search results.

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  3. Let’s keep in mind that until Nimoy or Bowie or Shakespeare had put out their first work, they were no different from you, me, or anyone else. Perhaps the light we cast will be as bright as theirs, and if the audience is not as large, well, that’s OK too.

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    • Oh, of course. That was an optimistic statement. And if one of the two hundred or so readers of this blog turn out to shed the light of a NoBoS, so much the better. That’ll mean a total illumination brighter than the bulb we’re replacing.

      We might want to concentrate on a different field, though. Given the demonstrated interests of my readers, shall we try to find the Ansel Adams of cat pictures?

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