Friday, January 8, 2016

★ - The Death of Bowie

David Bowie celebrates his 69th birthday today with the release of ★. This dark, while charming, LP tells the story of an aging rocker dealing with life's new challenges while reflecting on what has come to pass. I think. But what is apparent is that death is ever present and Bowie must accept the eventuality that he will die, as fans must accept that the glam-rock legend is less than immortal (all that is in there, somewhere). The title track showcases that fear of death, of the unknown, of loss, yet maybe Bowie isn't afraid to die so much as his fans are frightened to see him go. ★ in this sense is a paean to Bowie's fanbase. (There are those of us who cringe each time we remember that Joni Mitchell was in a coma cloaked in secrecy, like someone had sucked up a bit of our souls with a vacuum cleaner; and this is becoming more and more apparent as rock's history is bombarded by those words "50 years ago.") The fantastically bizarre music video shows beloved character Major Tom (or not) as a skeleton, symbolizing the end of his legacy (or not). Nothing here is definitive or obvious, but the suggestions are sublime, the minimalism of the title track leaves interpretation in a cavalcade of ifs.

With "Lazarus," Bowie isn't confused by death, nor does he fear it, instead he embraces his immortality. "Lazarus" (the title track from the off-Broadway musical smash of the same name) suggests that Bowie is content in life, achieving all he set out to do, the only thing he has not yet conquered is being free - "be free, just like a bluebird." Will death bring the freedom he yearns for? That remains unclear, the element of unknowingness in these tracks highlights that

Wait, forget about it. This is top notch Bowie, and with the exception of "Where Are We Now" it's the most excited I've been since "Somebody Up There Likes Me." Fifty years on, David Bowie remains a vanguard of contemporary culture as musician, artist, icon and nonpareil to generations of writers, artists and fashionistas. Bowie's first band, The King Bees, released the single "Liza Jane" when Bowie was only 17 and still using the name Davie Jones. The Mannish Boys was next with their single "I Pity the Fool" and finally Davy Jones and the Lower Third (note the changed spelling) released "You've Got a Habit of Leaving." It was then, 50 years ago, that Davy Jones changed his name to David Bowie to avoid any confusion with that other Davy from The Monkees.

From the Lad Insane to the Alien, David Bowie is a cultural icon. Happy 69th Birthday, David - Our lives would be ever so dull without you in them.

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