David Bowie has towered over not only music, but films (like the awesomeness that is his turn as The Goblin King in Labyrinth) my whole life. The funny thing is, his versatility as an artist kept me from knowing which songs were his exactly for a long time.
Mostly because I was totally uncool growing up, and didn’t really look into the music I consumed very carefully, nor did I consume much outside Top 40 until I got to college.
Now, I must have heard David Bowie in the background of my early childhood. After all, my siblings are 15 and 16 years my senior. They were in high school in the 1970s, and grew up with David Bowie as part of the soundtrack of their lives. It was through my siblings that I got to know Billy Joel, Led Zeppelin, and Kiss among others. I’m sure David Bowie was in there somewhere.
But again, Bowie was so versatile, that I never really put together his body of work at that age.
College was really when my musical knowledge started expanding, mostly because I was coming into contact with students from all over the country (and the world!) at NYU, who all brought with them their own experiences and musical tastes. That expansion continued into my twenties as I moved into apartments with roommates.
I’m not a music geek – I rely on recommendations, because while I love music, I don’t seek it out the same way as I do, say, good comics or sci-fi. So I relied on my friends to tell me what was what. So many of them had David Bowie CDs in their collections.
But I, being completely clueless and not realizing that I’d already heard so much David Bowie in my life, looked at those CDs and would think David Bowie’s totally one of those classic rockers I need to get to know better. One day, I’ll listen to him.
Not realizing I’d already listened to him.
And so, with each of the following songs, I remember there being a point when someone would play it, and tell me it was David Bowie, and my response wouldn’t be “Oh cool. Now I know what David Bowie’s stuff sounds like.” It would be, “Oh! That song is David Bowie!”
Then, “Wait, that’s David Bowie, too?”
And then, “Hold on…that’s David Bowie, too?”
And finally, when I was living in Astoria with my friends Liz and Adam, each of whom loved Bowie – LIz probably more than anyone I knew until I met The Fiancee – “Whoa. I guess I have listened to David Bowie before. I just didn’t realize all these awesome, completely different-sounding songs were written by the same guy!”
“Space Oddity” always spoke to my sci-fi, space-loving heart. It also speaks to my romantic side, both for its spirit of adventure, and the fact that the narrator’s last thoughts are about his wife, and he’s told that she knows how much he loves her. *sigh*
I’d always liked “Young Americans” when I first heard heard it, but when it was used as the end credits music for the Lars Von Trier film, Dogville, I loved it even more.
Oh my God, this fucking guitar on this song. I just can’t.
And of course, one of the coolest collaborations ever. I’d like to think that Freddie Mercury has been waiting for Bowie to show up so they can finally sing this song together again.
The Fiancee has been excited about Bowie’s newest (and final) album called Blackstar. The knowledge that Bowie specifically created the album with is own impending death in mind and created it as a “parting gift” to the people who love his music is astounding to me, and makes me excited about it, too.
David Bowie was a true artist in every sense of the word, and I love that his final act of creation was so well thought out; that despite everything he was going through, he was an artist right up until the very end, leaving us a catalog of amazing music and films in various styles and personas to comb through and be inspired by forever.
Thank you for your art, Mr. Bowie. I know who you are now and exactly what songs you were responsible for. Took me long enough, right?
I’ll now leave you all with another one of my favorite Bowie collaborations, which also happens to be one of my favorite renditions of a Christmas song:
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