Friday, January 15, 2016

Art, (Im)Mortality and the Sublime David Bowie

This isn't to downplay the very sad death of Alan Rickman, which is also a sad and serious blow to my years of fandom. My hat's off to you Professor, for bringing to life one of literature's more complex characters and many others over the years. You were amazing.

When I told my mom I liked Bowie,she had this in her head
But David Bowie has got me thinking of much deeper issues than just admiration of amazing talent, though he had that in spades, also. The way he approached art and himself. Never willing to settle. Always wanting to try something new. Growing from it and then outgrowing it. And then onto the next endeavor. People have called him a chameleon, but I think it was braver than that. He didn't adapt and change to what was going on. He ignored what was going on and thought, “What do I want my next iteration to be of me as an artist? What do I want to try? And then the world followed. Even that mullet... 1973... the mullet would become a thing in the early 80s... He led. So far ahead that most people couldn't even see it.

This was more what I had in my head
Even his most popular success, Let's Dance (the album) in the early 80s, was him saying “I'd like to make a popular mainstream dance album... see what that's like. He didn't want to do it for the money or to hit some high note and stay there as a pop star. He wanted the experience. Just to see. In every way, as an artist he led, he collaborated, he got excited about something new. Not just his new things--he celebrated other people's new things...

And he was PRODUCTIVE. Holy crap—I looked up his albums Monday and there are more than one per year he was making music—probably double if you count the albums that just recompiled and marketed already produced songs.

Even his death letter to us—his final album and good-bye was an original set of artwork for the authentic purpose of one last gift to all of us.

So you know how a tribute blog always gets back to all about me? This is that part.

Bowie had enough hits that were big enough they even played on KRPL in Moscow, Idaho when I was growing up. I'd heard Space Oddity, but would not have known it was Bowie. I was aware of Golden Years, Rebel Rebel, and my favorite, Changes, though I think only the first of those was late enough I was paying attention to who sang it.

But in 1982 when MTV first broadcast... when cable transformed, honestly, but I was 16, so MTV was what mattered... Bowie was a part of that very first exposure I had to music that was not pop radio or heavy metal (which is what my crowd tended to listen to). New wave. (remember that word?) Music that was more international, more big city. Closer to what my cool friend Melinda listened to (a pen pal from Pullman Washington who was seriously more serious about seeking out good music and had the Washington State Students to look to for source material—Washington including Seattle, so they were more varied and progressive musically than Moscow which had, as I said, metal. (not knocking metal—I still love a lot of it, but you get where I'm coming from... there were things in my background and things that were BRAND NEW. Bowie was part of that brand new for me.

The hubs hair was shorter and he usually wore a shirt, but...
And I'll let you in on a little secret... He totally defined sexy for me. I already had a thing for thin men: lanky. And he moved in sort of a feline way—I see all the references to androgyny for him but that wasn't what I saw at all—he was angles and flow. His mismatched eyes made him intriguing. His crooked mouth looked just a little naughty. And then his voice... it almost has its own echo, doesn't it—like he is providing his own backup? (is that even possible?) It gave everything he sang a bit of a haunted sound—it was totally one-of-a-kind. So yeah... I admitted a long term college crush of mine was probably as deep an obsession because he reminded me of Bowie (build, mouth and eyes—he even played guitar and sang for me once). And the hubs had the Bowie build and naughty expressions going on when I first met him... But I won't blame Bowie for my romantic decision making... just what I was attracted to.

And it just got better... though I miss the messed up mouth
I guess in his death though—the think that has been filling my week—is looking at Bowie and what we can learn as creators. I've written books for a market I know exists... and I don't find anything wrong with that. But I want to remember to prioritize always learning and growing—never settling in comfortably, but continuing to try things if I want to try something new. Continuing to learn and develop... collaborating if I don't quite have the skill set all on my own (look at what he did with Trent Reznor—WOW--or Tina Turner, or Bing Crosby...) always staying true to who HE is in it—his collaborations seemed to usually put HIM into somebody else's song PLUS put somebody else into one of his... just a really rich way of doing things. I hope just once in my life to create something that moves people the way he managed to do so regularly.

So I guess in addition with his thoughtful good-bye album, he has left me with artistic wisdom I hope to hang onto.


Hilary Melton-Butcher said...

Hi Hart - great post .. and yes - I've realised in my latter years how exceedingly brilliant people are, and Bowie was one of one. He's redefined creativity for us .. we need to think forward, clearly and concisely, yet constantly trying things along the way ... well done - your passion shows through ... and Alan Rickman - such a sad loss too ... we can aspire to follow on .. cheers Hilary

L. Diane Wolfe said...

I never saw androgynous or gay. He did move in a rather cat-like manner though.

dolorah said...

He was an interesting character, and had a really good voice. Yes, I loved his insights on creativity, try something and see how it works out. Loved that quote. Be you Hart, you're awesome at it :)

Andrew Leon said...

That's one of the same things I've always liked about U2, the moving on to the next thing rather than staying in one thing that will make you a pile of money.

Alex J. Cavanaugh said...

He was always innovative with his music. That also spilled over into his acting and the unique roles he took.

Ted Cross said...

Changes was always my favorite as well, unless I can count Under Pressure with Queen. I truly admire Bowie and Rickman, and it's a very sad week.

Susan Gourley/Kelley said...

You said a lot of what I thought of him much better than I could. I hope I never stop trying to learn something new and grow and outgrow. Lovely post.

Helena said...

I love what you say about Bowie being all angles and flow. I myself was never physically attracted to him--I like the more rugged type. But in college I played his Hunky Dory album to death. What a brilliant artist who inspired just about everyone out there today.

Unknown said...

An awesome post. I wrote a tribute for David Bowie myself but I think yours is aces. He was just so amazing. I'm still trying to grasp the realization that he's gone.

G. B. Miller said...

Excellent tribute post. I only got into just a smattering of his music way late in life (most classic rock radio pretty much killed it for me), since where I was growing up, the music of choice was hard rock (i.e. Led Zeppelin), southern rock and/or a smattering of new wave (i.e. Devo).

After getting a ton o' exposure to his music in the past week (college radio will do that well), I do have a greater appreciation for him as an artist.

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