Remembering David Bowie

Photo Courtesy of Rolling Stone.

Photo Courtesy of Rolling Stone.

On Jan. 10, the music world lost a major force. David Bowie died at 69 from liver cancer after an 18-month battle. Kept a secret, lost battle against cancer left the world in shock. Old friend Brian Eno’s account of his collaborator’s last email is particularly sad. Bowie seemed to be making a strong return. Two days earlier, he had released Blackstar, his second album in three years, and an Off-Broadway show based on his music had just opened. However, when one goes back and listens to his new songs, death seems to be more of an overlying theme than in most by him. He knew he was losing his fight, so he crafted the ending he wanted.

Bowie made his name by always standing out. He was an uncompromising oddity that broke into the mainstream. This was in every one of his personas: the strange space-rock folkie, the dramatic glam performer, the isolated ambient composer, the stadium-filling megastar, the ‘90s has-been, and the genius recluse. He wasn’t interested in pleasing everyone. In fact, his mega-hit “Modern Love” was written to spite the record label who had just dropped him for not being commercial enough.

He has dozens of classic songs and more than enough classic albums to earn his place among the greats. Few artists could write songs as original, with bizarre chord changes, complex melodies, and surreal lyrics. “Changes” is a catchy pop tune, but its lyrics of a young man on the cusp of stardom and slick production [with Bowie on the sax] made it a breath of fresh air. “Heroes” was an anthem about two lovers divided by Berlin that die trying to meet each other with a synth-line and guitar riff that makes you feel empowered by the tragedy. “Life On Mars?” is a song you can sing along to, but one that would seem unfathomable to write.

His theatrics made him one of the best live performers of all-time. His fearless disregard for the gender norm made him an LGBT hero. He’s as important to rock and roll as The Beatles, the Stones, and Dylan, or even Chuck Berry and Little Richard. For many years, he was the face of popular music.

Now that he is gone, the world of rock and roll does seem a little lonelier. The musicians that brought pop to its peak are growing old and their influence seems to be waning. David Bowie was a pillar of rock and now there is an enormous void in its structure.