“David Bowie died peacefully today surrounded by his family after a courageous 18-month battle with cancer.”
And with that simple statement on the official website, the life of one of modern music’s most iconic and innovative artists was brought to a close.
David Bowie was one of the Great Ones, a true artist not easily categorized or confined to one genre or medium. He did whatever came to his imagination, capturing previously unspoken ideas in music, on film, on stage, on a canvas. He was undefinable, sometimes unexplainable, and he could never be imitated. Regardless of whether or not you listened to his music or watched his films or stage productions, when you heard the name David Bowie, you just knew you were in for something completely different.
I didn’t get hip to Bowie until long after Ziggy Stardust and the Thin White Duke had come and gone. By the time I was old enough and cool enough (well, let’s just leave it at old enough) to start exploring my own musical tastes, we were well into the so-called New Wave era of the 80s.
I remember so clearly being drawn into the extended “Blue Jean” music video on MTV when I saw it for the first time, crowded around a television with a bunch of junior high school friends at a party. (Yes, kids, they used to play music videos on MTV. What do you think the “M” stands for?)
“Blue Jean” was a short film, really. And, despite the hokey style of some of its composite parts, it was a solid marriage between music and storytelling, something that Bowie had already mastered in his earlier concept albums.
After that, I was sold. I scooped up all the Bowie albums I could get my hands on. And I rarely missed a film he was in. Even Labyrinth seemed like a good idea at the time. But there were some others that to this day remain can’t-miss flicks in my book, including The Man Who Fell to Earth and The Hunger.
Bowie’s output dropped significantly in later years, but he still managed to keep coming up with new music. His discography remained in heavy circulation, allowing for a continuously growing fan base, and who can forget the classic one-shot collaborations he had with the likes of Mick Jagger, Queen, Tina Turner, John Lennon, even Bing Crosby. Yes, Bing Crosby. That really happened.
Few people knew about Bowie’s battle with cancer over the last year and a half. He kept it secret so that he could keep the focus on his work rather than his personal trials. Again, the mark of a true artist. In fact, it can be said that Bowie died with his boots on, releasing his final album, Blackstar, on his 69th birthday, just two days before he died.
It’s already been said that Bowie’s 28th and final album and the aptly-titled single “Lazarus” were a thank-you to his fans, but it is us who should be thanking David Bowie. He entertained us thoroughly for decades, and his music will live on forever more.
Look up here, I’m in heaven
I’ve got scars that can’t be seen
I’ve got drama, can’t be stolen
Everybody knows me now