I think 2016 will go down in history as one of the worst years (in recent memory) as to how many culturally important people were lost. This started early in the new year on the 10th January.
Like many fans the worlds over I was greatly saddened to wake up to the news that David Bowie had passed away. At such a relatively young age he was taken too early. The impact seemed intensified due to the dignified silence surrounding his illness - the news came as a tremendous shock.
A keen Bowie fan from youth, I have always looked forward to a new album or movie release whenever they became available. Although my musical tastes have changed and altered significantly over the years, his music remained a constant throughout all of the genres / artists explored - I always came back to Bowie. From my perspective, Bowie made music that always rewarded with repeated listening as there was always something new to hear. These discs of magic had the ability to draw me back in time and time again. This certainly did not happen with every album in my collection.
As was to many, Bowie was the mainstay of my musical tastes growing up, demonstrating there were alternative ways to approach being a creative force, changing musical styles and appearances with each album and never repeating himself. Important lessons for a fledgling creative - even though I didn’t know what I was subconsciously absorbing at the time. Way back then I simply liked the music because it was ‘different’ to the usual rock & pop of the moment, only understanding later in life that he was trail blazing so brightly. When you are lucky enough to live through these things, sometimes its only through hindsight that its possible to understand and asses the cultural impact being made on such a personal level. Now, looking back, I certainly feel lucky to have been around when David Bowie was creating such important work.
I’ll never forget the first time I heard a Bowie song properly, i.e. not on a muffled medium wave radio reception listening to patchy Radio 1 coming in and out of tune! It was the 1980’s reissue of the Space Oddity 7” vinyl single, heard through a pair of stereo headphones borrowed off a friend (thanks Ro) and that was it - hooked! From then on I thoroughly enjoyed exploring the back catalogue as pocket money would allow, amassing a collection of original orange label RCA vinyl LP's (which I still have and cherish). Favourites… Lets Dance (first DB album bought), Scary Monsters, Diamond Dogs, Young Americans, Low, Heroes, Station to Station and at top of the pile Hunky Dory. This album out of every CD or vinyl LP, (or now HD download) I own is the one that’s played the most. I’m sure I will never tire of it. Of the more recent releases, Heathen gets played an awful lot and I am now absorbing Black Star - downloaded but not listened too until some time after the sad news had sunk in, as per this blog entry. What of Ziggy, PinUps, Aladdin Sane and Lodger etc? I’ve always liked them, but not in the same way as Hunky Dory.
Not only a ground breaking musical presence, Bowie was also a huge influence across creative genres, being one of the greatest experimental risk takers in art, design and fashion, all helping to feed and overlap into the music. I don’t think any other artist (he was an artist - sorry, but most singers aren’t!) have explored music so inventively alongside their visual presentation, sexuality, abstract concepts and character invention, then combining as a whole statement to communicate to an audience so successfully. A true cultural icon who’s legacy is as innovative as it is entertaining and as a result will always have an influence across the art / design / musical disciplines.
I was lucky enough to meet the superb artist George Underwood at an exhibition private view (a school and lifelong best friend of David Bowie) and talked to him at length about them growing up together and being a part of the art and music scene when Bowie was starting off. I’ll never gorget him describing him as being a unique force from when they first met, always knowing that the then Davy Jones would make a creative mark in some way. George Underwood also expanded that he was also one of the nicest chaps in the music industry.
A great loss for music fans the world over without doubt. The one consolation being he left an unrivalled musical legacy and body of work that can be cherished in the now and also influence the generations to come.
I look forward to listening to Black Star more and of course the amazing back catalogue for as long as I enjoy music.
Thank you Mr Bowie.