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.