I've never before mentioned the death of artists here, but David Bowie was one of the most personally influential artists; so please indulge me as I deeply mourn his passing. 69 seems so young these days, but he had a full life of music, starting in a band at just 15. He died of liver cancer just two days after his 69th birthday, and the release of his album Blackstar.
I Gazed a Gazely Stare
I was first introduced to David Bowie by Kurt Cobain's cover of The Man Who Sold The World, on Nirvana's MTV Unplugged album. At the end of the song Kurt noted that it was one of David's and I was instantly intrigued. The song, and Nirvana's cover, perfectly encapsulated a sense of haunted optimism. Having just come out of 80s pop, and into the sludge of Grunge, this contemplative mood struck me as more mature than most music. I was hooked and dove into his discography.
Do you like girls or boys? It's confusing these days.
David's openness about his bi-sexuality may seem quaint today, but it was inspiring in the 80s and 90s... before it was cool to be gay. Honestly in California it was starting to be cool in the late-90s, but being Bi was still troublesome for straights to cope with at that time. I was also open about my bi-sexuality in my teens. In David's example I found the courage to be myself, and the contemptuousness to not give a shit when other people had a problem with that.
Ashes to Ashes, Funk to Funky
In early-adulthood, when I was struggling with substance abuse, I once again found a friend who understood what I was going through in David's music. Ashes to Ashes perfectly conveyed the determination and hopelessness I felt in addiction. If you've never had to deal with addiction you've lived a blessed, but sheltered, life. You have to find your will. Addiction rewires your brain, and if you want to fix it you need to make your will strong enough to do so. Your determination must be the strongest thing in you, or the addiction will find some way of eroding your resolve. I slipped up a few times and felt the crushing hopelessness, but David Bowie's Ashes to Ashes became my anthem to make my will stronger than my apathy.
I'm a Blackstar
David's music has been wildly inspiring to other musicians for its "avant-garde, but good" ethos. It is quite hard to break the music mold, and still be listenable. This is something every experimental musician struggles with, but none have been as successful in their career as David. Contemporaries like Throbbing Gristle and Clock DVA might be far weirder, but neither exceeded a cult following. David's far-out music and manners were still palatable to a general audience, and that is way more important than most artists acknowledge. Culture should grow, and art should challenge us, but it won't be doing any of that if no one pays attention. Thank you, David, for helping us to turn and face the strange while we dance the blues.