*Written by Sachin Turakhia*
This may sound hard to believe, but before the horrible news broke of David Bowie’s passing, I had planned to write this week’s Music Monday about him. His 27th studio album was released on 69th birthday, and I wanted to do a piece on how incredible it is. He was still creating something new, relevant and truly unique. All the things I was going to say of course still apply now, but everything is just a little bit more emotional. He was a magnificent artist. In my opinion, the single most important man in music to date. I’m also aware that huge amounts have be written about Bowie over the past few days, however, as he made such a huge impact on me personally, it would have felt wrong to not write my own tribute.
The first time I became aware of Bowie, was watching a movie, “The Perks Of Being A Wallflower”. If I’m perfectly honest with you, I only went to see it as Emma Watson was starring in it, but I really enjoyed it. In the film, the famous scene is when teenager Charlie has just made his first two proper friends. They are all driving through a tunnel after a party. “Hereos” comes on the radio and none of the 3 of them know what the song. Sam (Emma Watson) then proceeds to stand in the back of the pick up truck, whilst the track blares out. At the time I watched the film, I also had no idea what the track was. Needless to say, “Heroes” made a huge impression on me. I was already interested in music but it prompted me to start exploring musicians of old, starting with Bowie. To this day, “Heroes” is still one of the songs closest to my heart, which I save for very special occasions. Big, tough or important days, I must start by knowing “We can be heroes, just for one day.” Cheesy I know, but it’s not failed me yet.
I started digging into the David Bowie back catalogue as every new-comer will do, with a greatest hits album. 3 discs of 20 songs, and not one of them below par. A pretty clear message about his quality there. This continues throughout his studio albums, which, although never bringing him the commercial success they warranted, are really his crowning achievements. Bowie’s ability to create new characters and change image (The Thin White Duke, Ziggy Stardust, Aladdin Sane etc) is well-documented, but the thing that made him special for me were his musical talents. Each album, in whatever guise he had adopted at that time, was a standout piece from start to finish. It’s one thing to change your outfit, but to change your musical style with such ease is other-worldly. Hunky Dory, Pin Ups and The Rise and Fall of Ziggy Stardust and the Spider From Mars are my personal favourites if you’re looking for a place to start.
It’s whilst exploring his work that I was taken (although only in a minor sense) by the now stereotypical Bowie effect. As a very shy and self-conscious lad, my aim for appearance had always been to fit in. I wanted to look like everyone else. Seeing photos of Bowie strutting around as walking work of art gave me the confidence to be myself. I started straightening my fringe and wearing my heart on my sleeve. I didn’t have to hide my character. It was only a small step, no makeup or women’s clothing, but for me it was huge.
This is all part of the reason why I’m in mourning, along with the rest of the musical world. I’ve been alive whilst many of the greats have passed; Michael Jackson, Amy Winehouse, Lou Reed, but none have really pulled my heartstrings in this way. I feel like I’ve lost something. The world is not quite the same without him. It’s an odd feeling to be close to tears about the death of someone you never met. He has had a significant impact on my life, which makes it easy to see why I’ve been hit hard. I know that I’m not the only one in this position. He inspired people.
This is Good News! though, so we must be sure to celebrate the Starman’s life and his legacy, which will live forever. Right up until the moment that liver cancer defeated him (it was an 18 month battle, that included 6 heart attacks), Bowie was creating incredible music and art. 2013’s The Next Day, although brilliant, was conservative by Bowie’s standards. It returned to his Berlin era, indicated by the fact the cover is an edit of the famous photo from 1977’s Heroes album. What it did was sweep the canvas clean for Blackstar, which looks set to be his first US number one (justice!) and is breaking all sorts of records in the UK. It’s a very forward-thinking album – as Bowie is famed for. The 7 tracks swirl together and take you to a different world, “the Villa of Ormen,” where you will be transfixed for 41 minutes. It’s an art-rock masterpiece.
I had these thoughts about the record before the Thin White Duke passed away. I cannot listen to it in the same way now. It was his parting gift to us. I like to think he is the Blackstar. He has boarded his spaceship and returned to his rightful home. He was too good for this planet. Others have conjectured the album was named after a cancer lesion itself – radiologists refer to certain types of lesions as black stars. Whether there is any truth is this, you can’t get away from the fact that Bowie was leaving clues for the listener, telling us he was dying. None more obviously than on “Lazarus”, as he sings “Look up here, I’m in Heaven / I’ve got scars you cannot see”. After watching the video, you can’t help but see that he was trying to tell us something.
Until his last breath David Bowie was creating genius. He was genius. The word is required to describe a man like him. He is the best there has been and probably ever will be. Rest in peace The Man Who Sold the World, Ziggy Stardust, Aladdin Sane, The Thin White Duke, The Man Who Fell To Earth, Pierrot, Jareth the Goblin King, The Outsider, The Elder Statesmen, The Blackstar. You will be sorely missed. Thanks for everything.
“Bowie’s in space ...”
Let me know what Bowie meant to you and drop me a line at firstname.lastname@example.org, on twitter @SachinTurakhia, or comment below.
Written by Sachin Turakhia