Turn and face the strange…
―David Bowie, Changes
Back in the day when music videos were rare, a bizarre, unnerving saga came through our TV. I still remember it like it was yesterday. Although I didn’t know it at the time, it was the most expensive video ever made. The song was, to my young ears, weird. The imagery was weirder still. As I grew older, I would see that it was made by a true artist. The song? “Ashes to Ashes” by David Bowie.
When the world awakened on January 11 to the news of Bowie’s death, the reaction was a worldwide tidal wave of grief, admiration and respect. Even more remarkable was the heartfelt expression of gratitude and love for Bowie. While such emotions are not uncommon in today’s emotive world, this runs much deeper…and for a legitimate reason.
Bowie’s appeal was not just in his musical genius, which is unassailable. Neither was it in his uncanny ability to reinvent himself in characters from Major Tom to Ziggy Stardust to The Thin White Duke to Aladdin Sane to the fashion maven of “Let’s Dance.” Nor was it in his prescient predicting of nearly every musical and global pop culture shift over the course of decades.
Bowie’s appeal was that he spoke to the alienated, weird, outcast, confused, isolated, abandoned, fearful, lonely people in the world. Bowie understood them. Bowie was one of them. Describing his career he mused, “The trousers may change, but the actual words and subjects I’ve always chosen to write with are things to do with isolation, abandonment, fear and anxiety, all of the high points of one’s life.”
Bowie was different than the usual rock star. He was unique. He was himself…whatever that particular iteration of self happened to be at the time. His 25th album, Blackstar, was released Jan. 8, on his 69th birthday. And, like everything else he did, it is unique.
Unbeknownst to almost everyone, Bowie was dying of cancer. Blackstar was a gift to his fans. Three days after its release, Bowie died. His song “Lazarus” is his take on his journey in shuffling off this mortal coil and says:
This way or no way
You know I’ll be free
Just like that bluebird
Now ain’t that just like me?
All great art honors God. He is the One who has given us the urge to write, paint, sculpt, compose, create. We honor the Creator when we create.
I’m grateful for the creative gifts of The Man Who Fell to Earth.
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