One of the first movies I ever watched repeatedly in my youth was Labyrinth, which starred David Bowie (and his spandex-contained crotch…seriously, even if you’re straight how do you not look at that?) along with Jim Henson’s darkest, yet still strangely adorable puppets. I probably drove my parents to the brink of homicide rewinding the VHS so I could hear Magic Dance again and again (just like I’ve been doing while I write this post).
There you go, hit play on that while you read the rest of the post. Let’s reminisce together.
I would learn later that Jareth was one of the most influential rock musicians of all time. In my teens, as I developed an affinity for music (specifically rock and roll), I became a fan of the man behind the Goblin King. I later learned that he was very likely an atheist like me.
Bowie was an interesting sort. He spent a lot of time in his own head and kept much of his life to himself, but was very public about things that really would matter to the rest of society — primarily his sexuality. As Keith Lowell Jensen wrote on twitter this morning, Bowie made it ok for us to question our sexuality before making us question our sexuality.
But while Bowie was open about his sexuality (though the real nature of his sexuality remains in question), he kept his 18-month bout with cancer largely on the down low.
Even if you don’t think you’re a fan of David Bowie, you probably are. You’ve probably heard some song he wrote/performed and liked it even if you didn’t know who sang it (click on some of these below that I’ve bolded and you’ll see what I mean).
It’s now too late to thank Bowie for his influence on society and my life, but I guess that’s no reason not to do it. In 1977 you sang “We could be heroes.” Nearly 40 years on, you really always were, at least to me. Forgetting that, you continued to influence pop culture and music long after your prime.
Thanks for advancing the cause of equality.
Thanks for Life on Mars. Everybody in my youth who wasn’t nearly as obsessed with that song as I was wrong. I can hit the high note in it now. That should tell you how long that song’s stayed with me — I’ve been trying for about two decades. Magic Dance aside, this remains my favorite Bowie song.
You not only challenged convention with your life, you did it with your music. Rebel, Rebel anyone?
Ziggy Stardust. ’nuff said.
I still rock out to Changes. No matter how much I hear or sing that song I can still have it come up on my playlist and get excited.
StarMan was great.
I swear the melody to Suffragette City has been stolen and/or modified in so many god damn songs. If that’s not respect/flattery I don’t know what it.
And last, but certainly not least (in fact, perhaps the very best), Under Pressure, which was penned and performed with Queen. It came out of a jam session between the two bands and became one of the most recognizable rock ballads of all time.
For the sake of having some of my day left over I have to stop at some point. Undoubtedly people will come into this post saying “What about x song?” That’s not a knock on my love of Bowie’s music, but a tribute to how prolific Bowie was as a song writer.
It’s a pity that even great men must die. While there is no heaven where men can live forever, far from being interred with their bones the good that men do lives after them. Through his music, and with every person who became more comfortable with their sexuality when Bowie was at his peak, David Bowie will live on in some sense in a lot of us.
Thanks for helping us to turn and face the strange.