I rarely react publicly to celebrity news or the passing of famous people. This news hit me in a most the peculiar way. After an 18 month battle with liver cancer, David Bowie has passed. Perhaps it’s because of personal circumstances but the stars look very different today.
Last night was strange. I couldn’t sleep and I didn’t know why. I hit the pillow around 11pm and at 1:30 I was still wide awake, no closer to getting the rest I needed in order to get up at a reasonable time.
I headed to my home office to waste some time until the sleep set in when I saw the first “news,” if you could call it that.
The top two images on my Instagram feed were both photos of David Bowie with no captions. No hashtags. Nothing but the images. The lack of information on those two posts, from completely random people spoke volumes. I knew exactly what they meant and it hit me in a way I would have never expected. It wasn't until 10 minutes later that the mainstream news sites began announcing the news. While I was never a "fan" David Bowie's - my heart sank.
I never really knew David Bowie or his music. But I never knew a time when I didn’t know David Bowie and his music.
Blackstar is the title of his latest album, released on January 8, his 69th birthday. Black cover, black booklet and an omen. He died on Sunday night as the White Duke, a few lines posted this morning on his official profile Twitter and Facebook:
“David Bowie died peacefully today surrounded by his family after a courageous 18 month battle with cancer. While many of you will share in this loss, we ask that you respect the family’s privacy during their time of grief.”
— @davidbowie on facebook
Shortly after the announcement on social media, the news was confirmed by his son, Duncan Jones along with a rare photo of him as a child with his father.
“Very sorry and sad to say it’s true. I’ll be offline for a while. Love to all. ”
— @ManMadeMoon on twitter
David Bowie’s star shown through five decades of rock music, reinventing styles, anticipating fashions. He absorbed the lessons of masters such as the British mime Lindsay Kemp, who influenced Bowie’s performances, videos, album covers - even as he reworked everything in an absolutely personal style. But it is the music where his creative intelligence shines brightest. Flair and constant curiosity defined a career that began, on records, in 1967.
It was in 1969 with the release of Space Oddity (in spite of being a commercial flop) that the critics started to follow him with interest. He followed it up with The Man Who Sold The World which was also an initial commercial flop, bit which later was later considered to be one of Bowie’s best albums. The real explosion of Bowie came with the release of The Rise and Fall of Ziggy Stardust, in 1972. A handful of songs fit perfectly into the rise of rock and glam at the time, where Bowie finally got due recognition from not only the critics, but the public as well.
Bowie was a chameleon, always changing his skin. From the beat of Pin Ups, R & B of Station to Station and Young Americans, and culminating with the perhaps a more creative and experimental phase, the Berlin trilogy with Low, Heroes and Lodger from 1977 to 1979. The eighties started with the fascinating and enigmatic Scary Monsters. While Bowie seemed distracted on the musical front this era of his career resulted in a huge hit, Let's Dance in 1983. Produced by Chic’s, Nile Rodgers, this was Bowie’s best selling album of his career.
In Bowie's career he made several film appearances. Among them The Man Who Fell To The Ground (1976) directed by Nicholas Roeg, the intense Furyo directed by Nagisa Oshima (1985), the musical Absolute Beginner (Julien Temple, 1986) and the controversial Basquiat, directed by Julian Schnaebel.
Three years ago Bowie released The Next Day after a silence that lasted ten years. His last live musical appearance was in 2006, with Alicia Keys.
Sources closest to Bowie have reported that he battled through liver cancer and several heart attacks to complete this last project. He was spotted in New York at the premiere of his live show “Lazarus.” Then a few days ago, unannounced, there he was again with Blackstar, a magnificent swan song.
Leave it up to David Bowie to orchestrate his exit from this place by turning it into art while leting his fans know he’ll be waiting for them on their next stop. His video for Lazarus, released within hours of his passing is unsettling and makes me uncomfortable.
“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
This way or no way
You know, I’ll be free
Just like that bluebird
Now ain’t that just like me”
I never really knew David Bowie or his music. I never knew a time when I didn’t know David Bowie and his music. I will never forget when I learned of his passing.