Rarely have I seen such an outpouring of grief and remembrance go forth toward an artist and cultural icon as much as I’ve seen lately with the recent passing of David Bowie, especially resonating from the ranks of us snarky ‘Millennial’s’ who maintain an appreciation for his greatest works which occurred largely ‘before our time’. Rarely do celebrity deaths have such an impact on me personally as well. The deluge of mass media coverage we are seeing is not a trivial ritual, because, in his heyday, Bowie was so far ahead of his time in so many ways that he speaks to us directly even though he made his mark on the world 40 some odd years ago.
David Bowie epitomized the essence of what it means to be an artist. Constantly re-inventing himself and changing with the times, he dissolved gender lines, generational lines, racial lines, and genre lines. Upcoming artists and musicians need to take note and study Bowie like Beethoven studied under Mozart and Sinatra studied under Crosby. Even in the throes of death, Bowie managed to somehow encapsulate a dramatically artistic fugue with ‘Blackstar’ his final album that is as haunting as it is euphoric; with his swan song ‘Lazarus’ representing an unnerving portrayal about coping with cancer and keeping it hidden away from the world. He was a class act right up until the very end of his life. What strikes me most is how rare artists of his caliber are today, and it would be fair to argue that he defied caliber and classification altogether. Otherworldly and alien, creating alter-ego’s that were real rather than gimmicky, Bowie shaped a cultural legacy that will always endure. What we are now seeing is that the pool of talent reaching anywhere near Bowie’s magnitude is fast dwindling. There is still great talent and unique sound in the music world today, though not nearly in the same way as it once was: There lacks a certain panache and musical finesse for real ingenuity in the vast majority of the mainstream music scene.
The old Gods of Rock are dead and dying.
Because he was a musical polymath with an uncanny ability to span so many echelons of talent, acting and performance art and pull it off so authentically, the next generation desperately needs to understand how unique Bowie was and realize just how much talent this planet lost this past Sunday. The kind of seismic, musical witchcraft that Bowie produced will never, ever come groomed from some record label executive whose sole purpose is mass manufacturing a brand attached to a photo-shopped face. In the long term, people will always see through the charade of the short lived one hit wonders with obnoxiously perfect hairstyles and synthetically altered voices. Although Bowie was never above profiting from his works, like any true artist, his music and performances came from a heart of great inspiration and zealous artistic creativity; and although his music and image can be promoted and marketed, talent of his nature can never be replicated. The Thin White Duke had a great impact on my life as it did countless others. Let’s not forget Labyrinth, either. How awesome was that movie?
David Bowie isn’t dead; he’s immortal and simply fell back into outer space.