Tuesday, January 12, 2016

David Bowie: "Look up here, I'm in heaven"

Did you know he was ill? I didn't know he was ill. I only knew there was a new album, because that's what all the tweets from the weekend were about. 

But look - there was Lazarus and it wasn't even a clue, it was goodbye. 

All these people who die close to the dates when they were born, these perfectionists, they hurt.

If you grew up in the 70s and 80s, it was impossible not to know Ziggy Stardust/Aladdin Sane/Bowie. Do you remember the music stores in them days? How there were LPs and the new-fangled cassettes but also! posters!

There was a certain kind of person who had Freddie Mercury posters and David Bowie posters and - flamboyant though those images were - the people tended to get lost in the noise of Wham! or MJ and others.

That's the icon. That knowledge or image, music, persona, performance - all of it was retrospective. (When I think of Bowie, I think inevitably of Tilda Swinton and Derek Jarman). My relationship with Bowie's music was not visceral but I can't imagine my childhood without it. He was a part of my process of becoming someone I half-understood I wanted to be.

Yesterday, twitter was (as a friend put it) a wall of grief. There was great stuff: anecdotes, interviews, quotes, replies to fan letters, and of course the music and the images that went with them. 

I'm linking to two things only among all the amazing stuff. This post by Brian Philips on what David Bowie meant to young people:

 With Bowie, you never had the sense that he was in anyone else's negative space. Obviously he was, in all sorts of complicated and complicatedly evolving ways, but his special trick was to make himself *seem* like a perfectly free self-invention, a creation out of thin air. The spaceman stuff made sense for him because his job wasn't to be a freak, it was to present an idea of sanity as it might exist if it had been allowed to develop without all the distorting repressions of our world. I think that's why his weirdness always seemed so comforting to weird people. His strangeness wasn't sickness so much as the suggestion of a higher sort of health.
 And this poem by Tracy K. Smith:

Don't You Wonder, Sometimes?

By Tracy K. Smith
After dark, stars glisten like ice, and the distance they span
Hides something elemental. Not God, exactly. More like
Some thin-hipped glittering Bowie-being—a Starman
Or cosmic ace hovering, swaying, aching to make us see.
And what would we do, you and I, if we could know for sure
That someone was there squinting through the dust,
Saying nothing is lost, that everything lives on waiting only
To be wanted back badly enough? Would you go then,
Even for a few nights, into that other life where you
And that first she loved, blind to the future once, and happy?
Would I put on my coat and return to the kitchen where my
Mother and father sit waiting, dinner keeping warm on the stove?
Bowie will never die. Nothing will come for him in his sleep
Or charging through his veins. And he’ll never grow old,
Just like the woman you lost, who will always be dark-haired
And flush-faced, running toward an electronic screen
That clocks the minutes, the miles left to go. Just like the life
In which I’m forever a child looking out my window at the night sky
Thinking one day I’ll touch the world with bare hands
Even if it burns.
He leaves no tracks. Slips past, quick as a cat. That’s Bowie
For you: the Pope of Pop, coy as Christ. Like a play
Within a play, he’s trademarked twice. The hours
Plink past like water from a window A/C. We sweat it out,
Teach ourselves to wait. Silently, lazily, collapse happens.
But not for Bowie. He cocks his head, grins that wicked grin.
Time never stops, but does it end? And how many lives
Before take-off, before we find ourselves
Beyond ourselves, all glam-glow, all twinkle and gold?
The future isn’t what it used to be. Even Bowie thirsts
For something good and cold. Jets blink across the sky
Like migratory souls.
Bowie is among us. Right here
In New York City. In a baseball cap
And expensive jeans. Ducking into
A deli. Flashing all those teeth
At the doorman on his way back up.
Or he’s hailing a taxi on Lafayette
As the sky clouds over at dusk.
He’s in no rush. Doesn’t feel
The way you’d think he feels.
Doesn’t strut or gloat. Tells jokes.
I’ve lived here all these years
And never seen him. Like not knowing
A comet from a shooting star.
But I’ll bet he burns bright,
Dragging a tail of white-hot matter
The way some of us track tissue
Back from the toilet stall. He’s got
The whole world under his foot,
And we are small alongside,
Though there are occasions
When a man his size can meet
Your eyes for just a blip of time
And send a thought like SHINE
Straight to your mind. Bowie,
I want to believe you. Want to feel
Your will like the wind before rain.
The kind everything simply obeys,
Swept up in that hypnotic dance
As if something with the power to do so
Had looked its way and said:
                                                     Go ahead.
  RIP, eh.


km said...

Oh man. How I loved Bowie's music. Discovered him with "Under Pressure" and Live-Aid in high school and then in college, drunkenly stumbled into a screening of "Cat People" (right when that creepy song plays) and realized the man was pure genius.

Did you read his essay in the Guardian (from 2001-2, I believe) in which he wrote about glam rock? Really wide (and deep) perspective on the topic.

Space Bar said...

km: No! (Though I'm not surprised.) Link if you find it?