Monday, January 11, 2016

Gimme your hands, 'cause you're wonderful

I was up late last night, about to go to bed, when the news of David Bowie's passing broke. I stayed up a while longer, trying to track down a confirmation, as there were claims flying around that his official twitter and Facebook accounts had been hacked. Confirmation came from a tweet by his son, film director Duncan Jones.

It is a testament to Bowie's creativity, prolificacy, good humor, and sense of collaboration, that there are so many different tributes and memories pouring out for him today. A recurring theme is how many outsiders took comfort from his work. It seems like no matter what kind of nerd you are, there's Bowie output for you: music nerds, movie nerds (including subsets like Scorsese or David Lynch nerds), gender nerds, sexuality nerds, science fiction nerds, visual art nerds, theater nerds, fashion nerds, Muppet nerds... Comedy nerds can post clips from The Venture Bros. or Flight of the Conchords or Extras or Zoolander. Advocates for racial justice are sharing Bowie's pressuring of MTV in its first year to play more music by black artists. Wonks for late-20th-Century Germany are posting about the Berlin Trilogy...

He recorded "Under Pressure," a major hit, with Queen.
He cowrote "Fame" with John Lennon, and you can hear Lennon singing backup, including the descending "fame fame fame fame" figure.
He offered "Golden Years" to Elvis Presley before recording it himself.
He saved the band Mott The Hoople by giving them the song "All The Young Dudes."
He produced Lou Reed's "Transformer," and you can hear him singing the "a-ooooos" at the end of "Satellite of Love."
Same with Iggy Pop's "Lust for Life."
He collaborated musically with Mick Jagger, Nile Rodgers, Pete Townshend, Brian Eno, Tina Turner, Bing Crosby, Luther Vandross, Pat Metheny, Trent Reznor, TV On The Radio, Alicia Keys, Scarlett Johansson, and The Arcade Fire.

He also made 25 studio albums including some of the all-time great rock records.

I describe myself as having not really "gotten into Bowie" until late -- when I was already out of grad school. It was Wes Anderson's "The Life Aquatic with Steve Zissou," and its soundtrack full of Bowie songs (both the originals and lovely Portuguese covers by Brazilian actor/musician Seu Jorge) that encouraged me to finally dive into Bowie's albums. I did, and coincidentally in the same month I met my future wife. Learning more and more about his music suggested a world of wonderful possibilities, a sense that mirrored my personal life in that moment. Singing along to his songs together in the car is a not uncommon occurrence in Melissa's and my relationship, even today. For a while, Max was obsessed with the song "Changes," and it remains in his mix on my iPod.

But despite taking so long to really learn his albums, I already knew and loved many of his songs and performances. David Bowie's work was so good, and so diverse, that no matter what corner of the popular culture you call home, he touched it. Losing him is a blow, but we are lucky to have the music he left us, and it is wonderful that he left us on his own terms, with a valedictory album released on his 69th birthday, two days prior.

No comments: