By Stephen McClain, Reference Department
On Sunday evening, January 10, 2016, David Bowie died at the age of 69. After the sudden death of Lemmy Kilmister of Motörhead and the passing of Natalie Cole, the music world has suffered the loss of yet another icon. As modern rock and roll ages as a genre, we will unfortunately see more influential artists disappear in the foreseeable future. Paul McCartney is 73, Robert Plant is 67, Bruce Springsteen is 66, the guys in Iron Maiden are in their late 50s (sans Nicko McBrain who is 63) and they are all still actively creating new music, but performing takes its toll on the body. Artists like these all seem larger than life. Even immortal. Aren’t they supposed to live forever? Anyway… Bowie had just put out a new album entitled “Blackstar,” his 25th studio album. I never realized it until now, but Bowie’s music has been present in my life for a very long time. Around the time I started playing guitar, I used to repeatedly listen to a crackly 45 of “Space Oddity.” (For those under age twenty-five, a 45 is…never mind. Go ask your parents.) I was in 8th grade when “Let’s Dance” and “China Girl” were in the Billboard top ten (yes, I’m that old). I bought the “Best of Bowie” two CD collection many years ago and have done an acoustic version of Ziggy Stardust at a few of my solo gigs. David Bowie had to have known the impact that his music and career had on the entertainment world, but some question whether or not he was aware of his own global reach.
His new album, “Blackstar,” which was released on his 69th birthday, is a dark record of 7 tracks that still test limits and is already being acknowledged as some of his finest work. Like George Harrison’s “Brainwashed” and Warren Zevon’s “The Wind,” this is an album written by a man knowing that death would come soon and this would be his final work. I turned on Palladia Monday evening and they were playing an older VH-1 concert of Bowie. Following the show, they played the video for the new single “Lazarus.” It’s creepy. Coupled with the shock of his death, I was not prepared for it. Bowie is in bed, blindfolded by bandages with buttons for eyes and sings, “Look up here, I’m in heaven / I’ve got scars that can’t be seen.” The other 6 tracks are also introspective, jazzy saxophone coupled with a bit of distorted techno. Chaotic at times. The album closes with a lyrical and musical farewell with the track “I Can’t Give Everything Away.”
“I know something is very wrong
The pulse returns for prodigal sons
The blackout’s hearts with flowered news
With skull designs upon my shoes”
We all live in an important time regarding popular music. We are sharing oxygen with artists who were the first of their kind, paved their own way and created music that will last far beyond our time on earth, but I fear that the grab for cash that has consumed the music industry is threatening the further development of music that will last. So much of what we hear today is lowest common dominator dreck designed to appeal to as many as possible. Don’t get me wrong, there is good music out there, but it’s not on the surface. You have to dig. David Bowie’s music and career began at a time when you listened to the radio to know which way the wind blew. Those days are over, but the music lives on. My hope is that there is a kid in a garage or basement somewhere, with an idea or song that will change everything. He or she is out there, I know it. Just like the starman, waiting in the sky. He’d like to come and meet us, but he thinks he’d blow our minds…
Rest in peace, Ziggy.
*Opinions expressed in this blog are solely those of the author and in no way reflect the philosophy or preferences of the Williamson County Public Library, its staff members, their families, friends, or pets.