by Chris Ricci (@ChrisDigsMusic)
When I was born, I was almost named David after David Bowie. For my parents, Bowie was the one thing they could both really agree on when it came to music, and the foundation of my love for music started as such. Growing up, I can recall thumbing through my parent’s record collection and seeing the vibrantly strange covers of his albums and feeling a sense of familiarity. Even though at the time I couldn’t place the sound to the cover, I knew who the strange man on the cover was, and to me that’s what mattered most. Hell, even my childhood cat got the Bowie treatment by bearing the name Ziggy.
After years of singing along to his tunes in car-rides to school and trips around the state, my parents decided that it was time to for me to see a concert. I was thirteen years old, and my first concert was a David Bowie concert. He came out on stage with prowess and thunder that I use to critique concerts to this day. His set list was eclectic, his voice was booming, and his band was tight. It was more than a concert experience: it was a major turning point in my own life. Until then, I took his sound for granted, and almost passed him off as less of an artist and more of a story my parents would always talk about. Seeing him on stage commanding the audience and his back-catalogue in an effortless manner made me change my tune and made me realize that the legends were true: Bowie was an icon.
It is very hard to deny the impact that David Bowie had on the world of music. Taking glam rock from the cult-music scene to the mainstream forever left an impact in the world of music, and his space-aged nuanced lyrics serve as the backbone to any and all singers and songwriters trying to figure out how to say what they mean. If you look carefully at the shifts and changes that mainstream music have made over the past forty years, you can clearly see that music isn’t really what shifted. It was Bowie that shifted, and music just so happened to follow in his wake.
David started off as a sum of his own influences: ranging from the glam rock talents of Marc Bolan, to the deep and powerful vocal stylings of Scott Walker. But, as time progressed, Bowie’s music became it’s own Ouroboros. His influence reached out for so long with such a wide grasp that he somehow became influenced by artists influenced by his own work. During his career revival in the late 90s, the sounds of Nine Inch Nails and Pixies became his outlet, but in the end the music he produced was still entirely unique.
It seems only fitting that the man who started his career when he was in grade school chose to work until his very last day on Earth. Three days before he passed away, Bowie released “Blackstar” which, upon listening to the first time, made me think that he was trying to wrap up his career. The album served as a beautiful alpha and omega on the day of its release, and now it serves as a perfect conclusion to the career of a man we never thought would vanish. Staying true to form, the man who created the weird world of music we love today also crafted his own personal and professional eulogy.
No visual representation stands better than the music video for the song “Lazarus” released a week before he passed away. In it, there are two different versions of David: The first version lies on a hospital bed with his eyes covered with a tourniquet that have little buttons as eyes, and the second wears a costume Bowie first wore forty years ago. While the first Bowie lies on the bed, he softly says “Look up here, I'm in heaven I've got scars that can't be seen. I've got drama, can't be stolen. Everybody knows me now.” Meanwhile, the second Bowie smiles and dances while feverishly writing in a notebook. As the video concludes, the first Bowie throws his arms in the air chanting “oh I’ll be free like that bluebird” while the second Bowie slowly backs into a closet while staring directly at the camera. The video, though eerie at first, stands profoundly as a deeply emotional and heartfelt goodbye: though one of the Bowie’s in the video lies in a hospital bed, the second hides in an armoire adorned in familiar clothes waiting until it’s okay to return again.
In the end, it’s difficult to say that David Bowie has indeed died, because if you listen carefully to the sound of music as we know it, you can hear his influence in the sounds and styles of anything you consider to be music. His impact is as important as the instruments musicians play and the structures they follow. The man may be gone, but as long as there’s a pair of speakers and a tune to listen to, he will never truly vanish. As he says in the closing words of “Lazarus”: “Oh I'll be free, ain't that just like me?”