A Farewell to David Bowie

 

bowie-shadow

I’d be lying if I said I was a huge David Bowie fan prior to January, 2016. But the circumstances around his shocking death, two days after his 69th birthday, have forced me to re-evaluate things. The loss of Bowie is a reminder of his enormous influence on the world of music, fashion, cinema, and personal identity. There won’t be another one like him.

Today I downloaded Bowie’s final studio album, Blackstar, from iTunes, because I wanted to know what music a man puts together while staring his own mortality in the face. As I listened to it for the first time on my drive home, through a gentle snowfall in suburban Chicago, I was anything but disappointed. In fact, during a sax solo near the end of I Can’t Give Everything Away, I felt very privileged to experience such an extraordinary work of art. If I’ve ever felt that way before, I don’t know when it was.

Music is as old an art form as humanity has, but growing up I thought that art was limited to painting and drawing and perhaps sculpture. Things like music and dance and writing and photography didn’t fall into this realm. But Bowie presented us the whole package. To call his music and all his various personas art was exactly the point. He created his sound, and his look, and his words, and you either got them or you didn’t. That’s what art is, in whatever form it might take.

More than anyone else I can think of in my lifetime, David Bowie personified art itself. And until he died–and I considered all the ways that he had offered himself to us–I never understood this. But I get it now, and I’ll carry this new appreciation with me for as long as my body and my mind will allow.

As I mentioned earlier, David Bowie died two days after his 69th birthday. My father–who is as unlike David Bowie as anyone could be–will be 69 himself in about a month’s time. So in addition to expanding my understanding of art and how to appreciate it, Bowie has given me a much-needed reminder of how precious and finite life can be. Like everything else in the 18 hours or so since I learned of his passing, it is a reminder that I’m thankful to have received.

May we all go out with such a flourish.

Walking through the park and reminiscing

I spent my birthday on the road yesterday. I woke up in Cleveland Heights, Ohio and, by the time the day was finished, I had made my way to Cape Cod. A week at the Cape usually relaxes me to a degree that nothing else can, and this year I’ll be here even longer than that. But to get here in the first place, I had to earn it. Road equity, if you will.

As we were driving a stretch on the New York Thruway yesterday, there was the unending task of finding something good on the radio. And at one point, I was met by the opening notes for the Little River Band’s hit single Reminiscing. I told my teenage daughter how it was the first record that I ever bought with my own money. I was ten years old at the time, and probably had earned the money from my first job, delivering a local ad paper at a penny per house. Everybody starts off somewhere, don’t they?

My daughter, a thoroughly modern teenager who treats the lack of a WiFi signal as something approaching a catastrophe, can’t know what buying a record is like. She buys music, all right, but it’s downloads from iTunes, and maybe a CD here and there. She won’t know what it’s like to put a needle on a record, and for some that’s progress. But she could at least hear the song on the radio, and it offered a view into what her ten-year old father-to-be listened to once. We gave it a listen, at least until the static claimed the final bits of trumpeting and fade-out. And then it was on to looking for something else to listen to.

It struck me that reminiscing is a lot of what I do in this space. I’m always telling tales about life as it once was, or at least how I remember it being. My accuracy with details is not always above reproach, but my love and/or respect for the subject matter being written about is always present.

Through reflecting, and remembering, and even reminiscing from time to time, I’m trying to bring bits and pieces from the past into the digital age. The world marches by, and things like owning a record, or making a penny by delivering an ad paper to someone’s house, will inevitably get swallowed up in the process. But sitting at a computer and opening up my life helps to bring these things back, if only for a brief and widely-ignored moment. It’s all I can do, and I certainly enjoy doing it.