Saturday, January 16, 2016

David Bowie

When I wrote about the death of Lem Kilmister I said the world has become more complacent.

The death of David Bowie leaves the world infinitely more boring.

I was shaken by this one. I knew he had a heart attack in 2004; the cancer caught me by surprise, which is as he wanted it. He had been sick for 18 months and kept a low profile about it, which is pretty amazing in this intrusive world that has to know everything about everybody all the time and finds ways to do it.

I was not a huge Bowie fan. I have some of his music, I like it a lot, but I did not follow his career closely. I have the early stuff, obviously, but from time to time I would pick up something new just to see where he was at. I would react like an inquisitive dog, cocking my head to the side. What is this?

He forced me to reconsider who he was and what he was saying. In other words, he engaged my mind as well as my soul.

There are few in this world who can accomplish that.

There are many Bowie songs that I sing every word to when I hear them on the radio, sing them jubilantly, but I was not a fanatic.

About the music.

I was completely absorbed by his persona.

The man re-invented himself over and over again throughout his life. Completely changed who he was, drastically traveled from one personality to another. True fans would go to concerts expecting to see one David Bowie and they would be surprised by the new David Bowie.

This is one of the things they loved about him.

He had guts. He didn't care what anyone thought. He was all about exploring life as he lived it and through his music.

He threw himself into life. Bowie quote: "I mean, my whole life is made up of experimentation, curiosity and anything that seemed at all appealing. I really had a hunger to experience everything that life had to offer, from the opium den to whatever. And I think I have done just about everything that it's possible to do."

From harmless looking singer-songwriter at the beginning of his career, to Ziggy Stardust, Aladdin Sane, The Thin White Duke, just a singer in the group Tin Machine, to the sophisticated suit wearing cool dude he ended up as, and everything in between that I have missed, this man changed personas effortlessly.

The line dividing the character and the man was blurred at best; sometimes not there at all.

He lived his life as art. He treated death the same way.

I watched two videos from the album he released on his birthday, a couple of days before he died.

They are haunting. He meant this album to be a farewell to his fans. The cynical will say the lyrics and his death are not connected. His producer, who has worked with Bowie for decades, admits that Bowie intended it as a farewell.

He faced death fearlessly and created art in the process.

David Bowie experimented with his life. We should experiment with our lives.

Most people do not know who they truly are. They adopt a persona early on that is comfortable to them and ride it to the grave, ignoring that all important voice in their head that keeps repeating: "This is not who I am, this is not the life I should be living, the words I am speaking do not come from my soul."

What an unforgivable waste, what a horrific mockery of life.

I know. I have been doing it for 62 years.

Life is all about living, life is about experimentation and learning. We should try on any persona that appeals to us. If it doesn't fit, pick another and give that a shot. Eventually, the search will lead to you.

Breaking out of a lifelong charade is not an easy thing to do. You have worn grooves in your brain and all your reactions, thoughts and responses come from those places.

But you have to try.

Bowie died knowing in his heart and in his soul that he lived his life.

Most of us die in cowardly shame.

I spent two days working on this post. It was important to me. I wanted to get it right. To capture what David Bowie meant to me, and a little of what David Bowie meant to the world.

I failed.

I will say this. David Bowie was a remarkable man. Extremely talented, fascinating and bold. He laid down a blueprint for life. He was intelligent, witty, charismatic and quirky.

He died the way he lived. On his terms and with an artful flourish.

David Bowie made a lot of people happy with his music and he challenged their intellectual curiosity with his approach to life.

I am thankful I was around to experience him.

Requiescat in pace, David Bowie.

And do it with a smile.

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