Thank You David Bowie
When I was a senior in high school I wrote a lot of poetry against the backdrop of David Bowie albums. I wouldn’t crib his words, just borrow the atmosphere. Cranking Bowie at high decibels made me feel comfortable in my own weirdness—gave me the courage to claim and channel it. When I found myself mired in family drama and looking for an outlet, Bowie often obliged. Hunky Dory was especially effective. From the opening piano riff of “Changes” to the nearly funereal drone of the last guitar chords struck in “The Bewlay Brothers”, the album is genius—a gem in the “velvet goldmine” of a time when albums ruled rock and roll. Hunky Dory epitomizes what most contemporary music lacks.
Albums used to be careful mosaics—songs threaded together to create a palpable aura thick with story and discovery. I’m not just waxing nostalgic. There aren’t many albums today that can make and keep such promises. Maybe a single song here and there—but an entire album? Playing a new record for the first time, listening to it in its entirety while you followed along with the lyrics and let the stories seep into your bones—there was magic in the act. The world dropped away and you lived in that album for an hour or so.
Bowie’s albums are all modes of transportation and inspiration. I love the imagery he played with, the personas he inhabited. Bowie’s albums were so rich because he wasn't just a rock star—he was an artist. And he was an artist to the last. His last release, Blackstar, is a masterwork in nothing short of the art of dying beautifully and mindfully. I can only hope to craft my own cognizant narrative when the time comes…if only in my mind—where our most important stories are written.
So thank you Major Tom, Aladdin Sane—thank you for all your “scary monsters and super creeps”. I adore them all.
Ashes to Ashes. Ziggy Stardust to Ziggy Stardust.
P.S. I’m not alone in my adoration of Hunky Dory. Jeva Lange at The Week is in my camp.
Thank you also to Tom Ashbrook at On Point and Robin Young at Here and Now for their incredible coverage of Bowie this week.
Please feel free to weigh in on the legend in the comments below.