As the 2nd anniversary of David Bowie’s untimely death looms over the horizon along with his would-have-been 71st Birthday, we find ourselves reflecting upon the extraordinary life of an extraordinary man. The icon, as he undoubtedly is in every sense of the word, spent 5 of his almost 7 decades on this earth dominating the popular music scene – that’s over 70% of his lifetime. It’s no wonder why his impact remains ever so prominent now, with many even believing that he is greater in death than he was in life. A greatness I thought to be unrealistic, an incomprehensible greatness, until he simply went and became it.
David Robert Jones, as he was known at the time, first discovered rock n’ roll back in the 1950’s through his brothers record collection – a discovery that I am forever grateful for. It reminds me of how I discovered David Bowie, which was through my dads impressive CD collection which always took front seat on our many road trips over Ireland’s mountain tops (another thing I’m forever grateful for). It was a 3-disc greatest hits collection, one that has survived many moving boxes and broken stereos and house parties full of the Spotify generation who never learned how to respect the scratch-prone fickleness that is the old compact disc. Perhaps as a metaphor for Bowie and his timeless career, the CD didn’t have an expiration date like the rest of them.
Something that draws me into the world of Bowie aside from the obvious yet inexplicable magnetic force that surrounds his very being, is his quiet modesty and his egoless confidence, often coming across a touch shy. His demeanour during interviews is personable and unassuming, keeping our imagination running wild and our curiosity as open as his permanently dilated left pupil. He was even known to make claims about how much he hated his singing voice, stating that he “only performed because no one else would sing his songs.”
I’m thankful for that insecurity that led him to perform, because MY GOD did he perform. His voice, the one that he so often undermined, was piercing in the most hauntingly beautiful way. The shy boy with the mind full of extra-terrestrial beliefs and alien intelligence was himself out of this world. His visual presentation never failed to release a rainbow of style and innovation, surrounded by a remarkable stagecraft that will never and could never be imitated. That being said, had he been left alone on a dark stage with only his microphone, his lyrical genius alone would have delivered a worthy masterpiece.
Much of his stage presence was embellished by his many different personas. David Bowie did not just break down musical boundaries – he obliterated them. There were no categories; no glam rock or plastic soul or new romance or melodic punk – there was just David Bowie. He was none of them because he was all of them. Categories by nature are restrictive and therefore to succumb to a single one is to be suppressed, particularly in an artistic context. His refusal to yield to categorisation gave birth to bisexual rock star alien Ziggy Stardust, space oddity protagonist Major Tom, schizophrenic Aladdin Insane and cocaine-addicted fascist Thin White Duke, to name but a few. Starkly unlike a chameleon (to which he was often referred), he never adapted to his surroundings and instead explored a path of personal development through unique and unrivalled reinvention.
And to us, these ever-changing personas are a reminder and an invitation to explore every version of ourselves, proudly and without hesitation. A reminder to “turn and face the strange.”
David Bowie was not a shooting star, one that you might catch a glimpse of from time to time if you searched hard enough. He was a constant. He is a constant. A Starman, then and now and always and forever. ⚡️⚡️⚡️