Some Thoughts on David Bowie

I never expected to be so affected by the news of David Bowie’s death. He was always one of those great artists who I sort of felt would always be around. While I was never a big fan, I had lots of his albums over the years, and many of his songs are staples of my musical memories. The most powerful song, for me, is “Heroes,” from the 1977 album of the same name.

Back in the day, I had a Sony Pressman, the predecessor of the Walkman, and “Heroes” was one side of a cassette that I carried around with me all the time. That specific song is so beautiful, so rich in emotion, that even now, listening to that song chokes me up a bit.

I never got to see Bowie live. I remember when he played at Madison Square Garden in 1978, it was impossible to get tickets. After that, he didn’t tour again until 1983, and I wasn’t really into his MTV-era music, though it’s a shame I missed out on that tour.

He hadn’t recorded much in recent years, and when the singles from the latest album Blackstar were released, I was stunned by how amazing they sounded. Like many of Bowie’s songs, this was not what music sounds like now, but what it will sound like in five, ten, or twenty years. Since the album was released last Friday, I’d listened to it a few times, and I decided that if he were to play live again, I’d pay whatever it would cost to see him on stage. Alas, that is not to be.

There are many images of the shape-shifter that was David Bowie over the years, but, other than the cover of “Heroes,” the one that may be the most lasting is this one from the video of his single Lazarus, where Bowie seems to look a bit like Gloucester in King Lear.

Bowie lazarus

In this song, he sings of his demise:
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

Look up here, man, I’m in danger
I’ve got nothing left to lose
I’m so high it makes my brain whirl
Dropped my cell phone down below

Ain’t that just like me

By the time I got to New York
I was living like a king
Then I used up all my money
I was looking for your ass

This way or no way
You know, I’ll be free
Just like that bluebird
Now ain’t that just like me

Oh I’ll be free
Just like that bluebird
Oh I’ll be free
Ain’t that just like me

Watch the video of Lazarus: