David Bowie's death was the first news story I saw when I awoke this morning. And, like millions around the world, my first thought was "No, he can't be dead - he's David Bowie!"
Of course, he could be dead, and he is, and there's a very big hole in our world.
There's also a little ragged hole in my own heart. Not because I grew up with his songs; I didn't - he came to North American attention after I graduated high school, and left university. I was peripherally aware of him as a young adult, but my first "Wow!" reaction about Bowie came when I watched "The Man Who Fell To Earth," rather than through listening to his music.
That changed when I came to Chicago, after Bob opened so many musical doors for me. I finally got to listen to "The Rise and Fall of Ziggy Stardust and the Spiders from Mars"; I learned that you really need to turn up "Suffragette City" to 11 to get the full impact; I bopped to the funk of "Young Americans"; I was continually impressed by his persona changes, his refusal early on to adhere to gender expectations, his journey through different music styles, his blending of art, fashion, and music.
When Bob and I were making a run at rock and roll stardom with our bassist Dr. Gonzo, we did a weird (but it worked musically and, oddly, thematically, I think) little medley of "Heroes" with the Beach Boys' "Do It Again." I had to learn the lyrics to Heroes, which led to listening to the entirety of both Low and Heroes.
And that's when Bowie got into my psyche.
I'm a lyrics person. I'm also pretty linear, which meant that sometimes, Bowie's very non-linear lyrics left me off-kilter and, yes, very occasionally unimpressed. But when I heard "Heroes," when I heard "Sound and Vision" that all changed. In my eyes those two songs revealed glimpses of an extraordinarily opaque artist. Those glimpses left me incredibly impressed.
As much as I loved "Heroes" - and listening to it this morning brought tears to my eyes - it really was "Sound and Vision" that made me into a Bowie fan.
The austere but gorgeous Zen acceptance of "I will sit right down, waiting for the gift of sound and vision" told me so much about Bowie, about his love of music, his love of observation, his love of the world, his growth as a human. It made me want to be a better human myself, although it's hard to connect the dots between the words and my reaction to them (a little like Bowie's lyrics, perhaps.) I wish we could all sit down and wait for that gift - and appreciate it when it's granted, because sound and vision help connect us with the world.
Rest in Peace, Mr. Bowie.
Here's "Sound and Vision."
Here's "Heroes": This is a live version of Heroes because, damn, he looked so happy to be singing it, and damn, he did such a good job on it.
And here's his last release, "Lazarus" - the video and music go together so well, and seem to anticipate his death; it's marvelous, and chilling.
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