January 11, 2016

[RIP] David Bowie - Low, 1977

Last night I heard about David Bowie's death with disbelief. I don't think I'm alone in my longheld, subconscious idea that Bowie, if not altogether immortal, would at the very least outlive us all. I then found myself in four simultaneous 2:00 am text message exchanges of Bowie memorabilia: remember this live performance, that outfit, this song, that photoshoot, this scene in that movie, that moment with Iman, this album cover, this phase, that feeling. For Bowie, pictures are worth plenty more than a thousand words, because words could never do him justice. Instead of trying to express our loss, we just swapped images and stared in awe.

We've learned many things from David Bowie, whether or not we're aware of just how much originated with him. What I'm most grateful for is that he lived out a fluid sexual identity under global scrutiny, and recognized that the public's thirst to know exactly "what he was" was simultaneously ridiculous and a tool to be played with. That was particularly inspiring to me growing up, as was his shapeshifting sound and aesthetic. To call him a chameleon is incorrect, because he never blended in with anything. "Lightning rod" might be more apt. He's always seemed like a particularly sensitive vessel for creative thought, and he acknowledged that divine inspiration in his lyrics: "I will sit right down / waiting for the gift of sound and vision."

I woke up this morning agonizing over which Bowie record to share today. Low needs no introduction and defies explanation, but it feels the most emblematic of the depth of his interests and emotions. It's a record about alienation, and that alienation rubs off on the listener: by the time we reach the saxophone outro "Subterraneans," we feel disoriented, cut adrift and unsure what just happened. I can't help but think of his family when I listen to it today.

Safe journey, David, and thank you for everything.

1 comment:

  1. Such a sad day. Your writeup is wonderful, says it all about this brilliant album and how much Bowie has given us over the years.