Let’s make this brief and to the point: David Bowie created reinvention in popular culture. No one artist fluidly switched appearances, characters, song styles or musical genre with more aplomb. He was of a time when limits were not yet formed and the audience was appreciative of the constant chameleon act. Today, it’s blasphemy for an artist to dare pull a 180 on his career for they may fall prey to the wrath of those less gifted, less brave, less adventurous. Sadly, the cliché applies; if Bowie was a creation of the 2000s and not the 1970s he’d been rejected and thrown to the wolves long ago.
Now as the accolades rain down upon his legacy and his career that spanned an incredible five decades, those who might otherwise fault his ever-changing act now laud his ability to always change the game, and do so with such credibility and panache, only to be onto the next thing before it ever became a thing.
Bowie asked, “Is there life on Mars?” Obviously he is the only one that ever held that answer since his artistry and persona were interstellar–a bright star that never collided with the other hot gas formations, but sat on its own far up in the stratosphere.
From Davey Jones to David Bowie to Ziggy Stardust to Aladdin Sane and back to David Bowie, he was everything: rocker, glam, Bauhaus, punk, new wave, retro, futuristic and finally statesman. But nothing drilled an indelible hole in the populace like his Ziggy, grinding away on guitarist Mick Ronson, offering up trans-erotica with a scorching riff. Bowie was always a dandy, but he wore it with such confident machismo.
His post-Glam life in Berlin brought us the Auslander on the run, before he took a break, to only come back in his biggest risk yet as the pastel-suited dance party maestro heralded by a medium that was custom made for Bowie–MTV. You couldn’t escape the modern love of a China Girl while being scolded to Let’s Dance. The balancing act was now in full flight, as he had to keep his past close, but his new persona even closer as to not to let it muddy the waters. For all his success in the early 80s, he was still a prisoner to the red-haired alien from 1972. “Fame, what’s her name?” So apropos.
But here we sit today. David Bowie has left us to revisit all those wonderful idols he created, and we are left with his legacy with much void surrounding it because no one is there to fill the space; that’s rarified air, and too many tartlets have sucked the oxygen out of the room. There is still a bright future ahead for music, just not one of the magnitude that Bowie created. While you were sleeping, he was creating another mystery, another plot for us to follow; all the while we were singing the words to the 1-inch in front of our faces.
“Inspiration, have I none?” No, I’m afraid not, the heavens took them.