His real name was Jones. A name like that certainly was unsuitable for a person destined to influence a half-century of culture. The moniker ‘Bowie’ fit his creative glove much better.
I could sit here and talk about his music; ‘Fame’, ‘Space Oddity’, ‘Heroes’, ‘The Man Who Sold The World’, ‘Let’s Dance’, ‘Absolute Beginners’, ‘This Is Not America’, ‘Rebel, Rebel’ and anything with the Ziggy Stardust persona. Though, if I did that, it’d limit the conversation.
I could critique his films; ‘The Man Who Fell To Earth’, ‘Merry Christmas, Mr. Lawrence’, or his tour in ‘Elephant Man’. Again, a bit limiting in the scope of his career.
Certainly, he knew fashion. The man who made Glam Rock kewl and groups like Kiss possible always seemed to look good whether he was on stage as Ziggy Stardust or simply rocking in a suit that he wore as easily as the rest of us wear jeans.
Everyone has stories to tell of Mr. Bowie. Yesterday, I was listening to Chirp Radio and the DJ Superfrye had people write in with their reflections. It was clear how much Bowie’s art – and for him it was all art – meant to so many lives. The photo above is part of a tribute being paid Bowie on Bloom County. It is humorous but it is a nod from one great artist to another.
I recall being sick one summer and the radio station latching on to ‘Fame’ and ‘Golden Years’ and playing the shit out of those, so much so that the tunes are still embedded in my brain. But the listeners then – and now – didn’t mind.
What Bowie brought to me though was the first realization that life itself is a parody. He seemed to understand that better than anyone so there was no conflict showing up on stage as Ziggy in an age when gender-bending performances had been regulated to farces like Some Like It Hot. He was daring the world – ‘Does it really matter?’. The world took a pause, then shouted back, ‘It does not!’
When he took us all out into the cosmos with Major Tom, he was showing us all that we’re only specks in a vast universe, that even with all our technology, we haven’t really begun to understand who we are or our role in the cosmos.
On stage he performed, showed us, that the norms we cherish so dearly, cling to as though they are a life jacket thrown from a sinking ship, only allow the parody to thrive. The truth lingers a scratch beneath the surface of the parody. With a single scratch – if we dare to make it – we realize our true selves, the core of what makes us individual. Our real essence struggles, longs to come out with the ego of a Ziggy or the passion of beginners starting a journey, for while we all bleed the same, our cries of pain and our laughter of joy are as distinct as the stars that seduced Major Tom. With each artistic piece, Bowie pricked himself and challenged us to do the same so we can experience life. We should all be grateful for having tasted the fruits of the creative genius that just passed from us.
Goodbye, Mr. Jones. Thank you, Mr. Jones.