David Bowie is deceased. On Jan. 10, he spent his final moments with his family and left a legacy of art in many of its interesting, beautiful and disfigured forms. Bowie’s music was so recognizable because of how distinctive it was compared to other artists in his genre. He even changed his own musical style and identity multiple times so the performance was never boring.
He was an effective entertainer. In nearly every show he performed, Bowie responded physically and emotionally to his environment in a dramatic manner. Whether singing the lyrics or just listening to the band, his enthusiasm and facial expressions made me think that he was a borderline primal animal.
It’s possible that most, if not all, of his impressions were fueled by drug use but every major artist has similar influences. Furthermore, Bowie has succeeded in the music and entertainment industry for at least a solid 40 years. That’s longer than most rock stars’ lifetimes.
Bowie’s works gave me a lot of mixed emotions. I dislike a lot of Bowie’s pop rock. It just doesn’t speak to me on an emotional or melodic level. I see his significance within the era of British invasion music in terms of symbolizing rebellion and counterculture but I much preferred the musical styles of bands like Black Sabbath or Iron Maiden. I also don’t like some of the musical covers he did. His rendition of “Alabama Song,” which was brought to my attention by the Doors, was a terrible concoction of attitude and sleaziness.
Bowie had a really long career with many different changes within his performance, and I think he built up an impressive amount of cultural faces and identities for people to behold. There are so many relatable identities. I’m not quite sure if it’s worth sifting through his stranger works to get there, though. There’s a risk of mental scarring.
As a child, my mother and I would listen to 99.9 KISW for our daily doses of classic rock during commutes and I had a great time. It gave me an aspect of life and a cultural world-view completely different than what my parents or my local society provided to me. I got to learn that the concepts of what was “hip” or “cool” came in many different flavors.
I loved listening to “Space Oddity” on the magnetic cassette tapes still in use during my youth, an alternate to radio broadcasts. I relished the different acoustic moods given by the A and B sides. It felt more personal than holding a frisbee-like CD-ROM.
One of my favorite songs is “Under Pressure,” which Bowie collaborated with Queen to produce. It feels relevant to me even today when I feel down or particularly self-reflective.
Whenever I imagine Bowie I envision a still frame of him from the movie “Labyrinth” which happened to be produced by George Lucas. He plays a wizardly goblin king with a hair-metal haircut and ‘80s outfits carrying a crystal ball in strange places.
Bowie definitely has a visual presence that works on camera. He’s done cameos in TV shows like “Twin Peaks” and “Zoolander” and also countless bizarre live performances on stage through his touring career. I like his attitude as a dysfunctional yet interesting adult, but he unnerves me a little bit.
Bowie released a track called “Blackstar” from the Jan. 8 album of the same name, which gives off this dark and surreal mood with the heavy use of shadows and experimental jazz. The pelvic thrusting from the back up dancers also had me raising my eyebrows further.
“Lazarus,” from the same album, was released almost a day from his death, and shows a recap of his career and life. The video had a large contrast between his display of age and frailty and his vibrant persona.
I don’t think there’s a hidden message or any other kind of underlying theme behind Bowie’s music videos. His entertainment style constantly evolved in a strange and surreal manner and I think it’s just another facet of his performance.
His presentation feels comical yet admirable because of the effort he put into his work. I feel he put many years of effort into the entertainment industry and made a mark on history.