I’ve heard a rumor from ground control.
Oh no. Don’t say it’s true.
Ashes to ashes.
David Bowie passed away on Sunday, January 10th, 2016. He had released his last studio album ★ (Blackstar) just two days prior. Since then, the world has mourned the loss of one of the most iconic figures in not only music, but popular culture. Tributes in the form of thoughtful works of art, singing candlelight vigils, and retrospective blogs each provided their own take on the influence Bowie had on their lives. Everyone grieves in their own way.
In my blog last week, I had posted an entry for Bowie. I knew since starting the blog that I had to do Bowie. I keep a long list of potentials songs to write about. And since I have a self-imposed rule of never repeating an artist, a smaller list of potential tracks from their respective discography. In the end, it all really depends on my mood. I bounced between several Bowie tracks from recent catalogue entries to long-standing favorites. I ultimately settled on the title track from his last album and published the entry on the day of the album’s release.
Each post is different. I could talk exclusively about the composition of the track from a technical standpoint, interpretations of the meaning behind the song, or a profile of the artist themselves from a historical or societal perspective. For my Bowie entry, I acted in rare form and opened myself up about my own personal experience with Bowie. He held a significant place in my heart and I felt that showing my vulnerability and personal feelings would be the best way. When I would normally analyze, I paid tribute instead. Little did I (or anyone) know he was near death. That made the experience of sharing my feelings all the more heartbreaking, but therapeutic.
I have a conflicting relationship with social media. For the most part, I feel it is the sound of people shouting into the darkness (I understand the irony/hypocrisy of my contributions to the noises within the void). When major events or sensationalist news stories appear, I typically avoid it. I would much rather see pictures of your kids, cats, and personal accomplishments. With Bowie’s passing, I refused to disconnect even for a moment. I wanted to share in the collective mourning and praise of a figure who possessed the power to unify people across generations and cultures. I loved reading people post stories about their discovery of Bowie, favorite albums, the privilege of witnessing him in concert, or touching artistic renderings they found online. I saw so many video clips and heard songs that were new or forgotten to me. It was like discovering Bowie all over again.
I contributed to the praise of Bowie and the first thing I posted was my refusal to accept he had passed away in the traditional sense. Bowie was always seen as an alien; something not completely human but still relatable in an indecipherable way. This image was cultivated over the decades by his unique facial features, iconic voice, complete secrecy of his private life, imagery within his songs, and a little dash of mischief. He lived up to his namesake so well that when I found out he died, I was stunned because I did not think I lived in a world where Bowie could die. I believed Bowie completed his mission on Earth and left us to continue his journey amongst the stars.
In 2008, the New Zealand folk duo Flight of the Conchords released their first studio album. Consisting of original tunes that parodied musical forms and satirized themes within our everyday lives, Jermaine Clement and Bret McKenzie proved to be quite adept at mastering a variety of styles. One of their signature tracks (which would later become an episode on their HBO show) is “Bowie,” a song about the enigmatic rock star chilling in deep space with Clement and McKenzie in awe. Busy with a schedule of jamming with the Mick Jaggernauts, orbiting Pluto, and being pulled by space’s Groovitational pull, Bowie effortlessly maintains his cool while Clement and McKenzie ask the Starman questions about life in space. Towards the end of the track, the signal starts to haywire a la the scene with Major Tom in “Space Oddity” as Bowie loses the transmission and is lost in space. Wherever he is now, I know it is not boring.
“Bowie” is a great track not only for it’s music video and witty lyrics, but Flight of the Conchords also manage to imitate different eras from Bowie’s discography. Stylistics moments reminiscing “Space Oddity,” “Let’s Dance,” and other classic Bowie tracks are experienced throughout the track. It is evident that Clement and McKenzie are true fans who excellently paid tribute to such an inspirational artist.
Bowie’s death and the news of his secret cancer diagnosis was shocking. As the world grieved, we still managed to share the love. I’ve been listening to his music all week while at work, home, and running errands. Last night, I even played vinyl copies of Hunky Dory and Let’s Dance at full volume while volunteering at the music school. There have been moments of pure elation, sadness, and introspection. It is all still foggy and confusing and hard to accept. But, there is one thing I do know. Now that Bowie has left us here on this floating ball lost within the vastness of space, I know his departure only signifies he truly belongs to the ages.
Something happened on the day he died
Spirit rose a metre and stepped aside
Somebody else took his place, and bravely cried