“I don’t know where I’m going from here, but I promise it won’t be boring.” – David Bowie
I wish I had more time this morning to express my thoughts on the inexpressible: David Bowie’s life and music, both of which are such vast, treasure-filled landscapes that become more and more interesting with each step you take and each song you hear. Few artists have reinvented themselves in such radical and fascinating ways. I’m sure we’ll hear his music and see his videos and films filling our screens and feeds for the next several days and countless people will choose and discuss their favorites. How can I do any differently?
Actually, truth be known, I can’t really say that Bowie or his music changed my life in any profound way, but I’ve always admired him, especially the musical adventures and risks he took. The first Bowie album I ever bought is still my favorite, Young Americans. I bought it because I thought “Fame” was the most incredible song I’d ever heard. I was disappointed to discover that the song had little (or maybe nothing) to do with the rest of the songs on the album. But the other seven songs on the album began to grow on me, expanding the tiny world of a 13-year-old raised primarily on Beatles records. Not very long afterward I began listening to soul music, thinking in my ignorance, “Wow, that sounds like David Bowie!”
I know a little better now, thankfully. Yet if all you knew about Bowie was Ziggy Stardust or other albums from that time, Young Americans was quite a jolt. I still love the album and play it frequently, but the songs that stick with me most are “Somebody Up There Likes Me” and “Can You Hear Me?”, songs that most fans probably wouldn’t list among their favorites. If I had more time, I’d tell you why they’re my favorites, but my choices really have little to do with the lyrics, and more to do with how Bowie styles them, shapes them, breathes life and passion into them, and pulls longing out of them. You can read some really great articles on Bowie’s entire catalog at Pushing Ahead of the Dame: David Bowie, Song by Song.
I could write longer on Bowie’s music (to say nothing of his film career), but today’s the beginning of a busy day in a busy week. I just wish it hadn’t started in such a lousy way.