I was a teenager in the 1990s when I first heard “Under Pressure” by Queen and David Bowie. I was outraged. “What? Who is this? They stole that baseline from Vanilla Ice!” And everyone present stopped laughing an hour or so later.
Luckily I survived my teenhood and evolved into a less idiotic and better exposed human being. Even more luckily, the career of David Bowie was not a closed book. It was a party that was still very much raging, and I was able to join.
Not that I was hip. There was also the incident where I rented Merry Christmas, Mr. Lawrence. It’s a great movie, and Bowie is great in it. But I thought it was going to be a warm fuzzy holiday movie and it was most certainly not that. I saw the title and thought “This must be the one where he sings Drummer Boy with Bing Crosby.” Nope. It’s the one where everyone gets tortured a lot. Should have just restarted the Muppets’ Christmas Carol.
I remember being so thankful for Bowie in the early aughts when he wrote “I’m Afraid of Americans” which perfectly articulated how disturbing it was to watch my compatriots, in a rage of vengence and fear, lose it’s collective mind in the aftermath of the terror attacks the year before. I will always think of that song as an anthem of that time.
I’m certain the majority of his fans are feeling that way today. Bowie was so plugged in to the artistic and cultural framework of the last five decades. His songs are playable memories, both set in a specific time and separate from it. He was a consummate and indefatigable artist until the end; his last album was released just a few days ago. I’ve been sampling it today. It’s a profound gift that he left for us, and a beautiful way to close that book that I didn’t want to end.
My favorite Bowie memory: It was 2009 and my sister and I were driving from Seattle to the San Juans where she was getting married. Weddings are such a crazy time and I wasn’t expecting to get much quality time with the bride, but we put on Bowie and we rocked out for the entire drive. It was a perfect day. I keep my Best of Bowie album in the car so that I can occasionally re-live it.
Good by Starman. I’m glad you came to meet us. And you are right; you blew our minds.