RIP David Bowie – an All-Time Great

The news of David Bowie's death came as a huge shock to me, as it did to pretty much all music fans. It also, for reasons explained later, freaked me out (in a Moonage Daydream ...)

Bowie is one of the three truly great musical artists of my musical lifetime, along with Dylan and Lennon & McCartney - counting them as one. (I'll put Springsteen, Bacharach, Jagger/Richards and a handful of others at the next level). What makes him arguably even more influential than Dylan or the Beatles for me is the number of genres he virtually created single-handed. Has any modern musical artist ever had a more creative period than Bowie in the nineteen-seventies?

Then , to come back in his late sixties with two albums of the calibre of One Day and the brand new Blackstar - again, it is hard to think of a parallel artist who has continued as an influential, challenging and inspirational songwriter and performer at that age. That is one of the reasons for sadness today; he was still coming up with genuinely innovative and at times quite startling music.

Why was I freaked out though? Well, just last week, a friend of mine interviewed me for an article he is writing for his newsletter. He asked me why Spend Matters featured music so regularly. I explained that I was inspired initially by Spend Matters US, and Jason Busch wrote about his hobbies - cooking, running and so on. So I thought I would do the same, and music was my number one love.

He then asked me what first made me feel so passionate about music. No-one has ever asked me the question, so I thought for a moment, and said it was David Bowie on Top of the Pops, performing Starman. My first seminal musical memory - it showed that music could be inspiring, different, challenging, with thought-provoking lyrics - yet also have a great tune! (I watched it with friends as someone was hosting a get-together for our German exchange visit party from Hamburg, I remember).

Anyway, after my friend wrote up the interview and sent it back to me for checking, I looked up the date of the Bowie TOTP performance to make sure I had the year right. I then sent an email back to him just last Friday, which included this.

PS just checked Starman was 1972 - here it is!

In the space of six years, he pretty much invented about five new musical genres with Ziggy, Aladdin Sane, Diamond Dogs, Young Americans, Station to Station, Low and Heroes - plus threw in probably the best “covers” album ever. Whilst he is highly regarded, I suspect he is one of those artists who will only be properly celebrated when he dies…

Of course, I had no clue he was suffering from cancer; I assumed he would be with us for many years to come. But I don't think I have mentioned Bowie previously in an email - well, ever really. Hence my feeling of slight weirdness as well as sadness today.

Our condolences to his friends and family of course - he will be very sadly missed, and we haven't even touched on his acting career, or his innovative business ideas (remember Bowie Bonds?). But just in terms of his music, what an incredible legacy to leave behind.

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Voices (2)

  1. Mark Lainchbury:

    Lessons in rock ‘n’ roll history – maybe worth a listen ?


  2. Paul Howard:

    For me, Bowie just kept re-inventing himself, effortlessly transcending both genres and time. Musically, I doubt we’ll ever see anyone like him again. He was pure genius (although I still cringe at the thought of the Dancing in the Streets video he did with Mick Jagger!).

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