Or any day, really. But today especially.
1. The wonderful actor Alan Rickman had either the misfortune or the great good luck to die just a couple days after Bowie. I guess you have to say that dying is always a misfortune. But speaking strictly in terms of timing – on the one hand, his demise was completely overshadowed by DB’s; I only just learned he was dead a few days ago. On the other hand, he gets to go down in history as part of Bowie’s Celebrity Death Triad (the third, according to my calculations, is legendary soul singer Otis Clay, who died on Jan. 8). That’s quite an honor.
2. Earlier this week I came to the horrifying realization that, even as we speak, producers are pitching Bowie biopic projects to movie studios. There is only one, very specific way in which such a project could go right: an “I’m Not There”-style film where many different actors play many different Bowies, directed by someone who’s properly empathetic to the subject (perhaps Bowie’s son Duncan Jones). There are about a million ways it could go wrong, some of them obscene; imagine someone like, I don’t know, Justins Bieber or Timberlake being cast in the role. Any attempt at such a travesty will have to be stopped, by any means necessary.
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As I’ve worked through the seven stages of Bowie grief this week I have been pondering how best to respond to the departure of the Great One from this bardo. (I may have done the stages out of order; I hit Depression earlier in the week, then Anger after listening to one too many shallow “tributes” from people who had no idea what they were talking about.) And today I think I finally reached the last stage, Hope/Acceptance, and found the right attitude, which goes something like this:
Yes, the singular human being we call Bowie is gone. But the spirit of Bowie will be with us always (not unlike Obi-Wan Kenobi). He was one of the most recorded, most photographed, most documented people in the history of the world. The art, the evidence, the inspiration is all still there. And more to the point, a little bit of Bowie lives on in every one of us who loved him.
So. It is our turn to be Bowie now. And it’s going to take all of us, because we can’t do it as well as he could – maybe not even a millionth as well – but if we all work together, we can at least take a shot at it. And that means, starting today, being the most creative, confident, generous, and glamorous version of yourself.
Start that project you’ve always wanted to do but been afraid of. Or think of a new one and get cracking. Give your self-doubt a rest, and when inevitably it rears its ugly head again, think of David – who always and above all else believed in himself. If ever you find you can’t believe in yourself, believe in the Bowie that lives inside you.
And when I say glamorous, I don’t mean wear glitter makeup – though by all means do that if you want to – I mean hold your head up, put your best face forward, and walk out proudly into the spotlight that is the world. Help others to do the same.
David would have wanted it that way.
In my logical mind, I knew that someday David Bowie was going to die. But in my heart, I believed that he would live forever – or at least find a way to outlive me, even though I’m 21 years younger.
Instead we are faced with the dreary prospect of a world without Bowie in it. That’s the bad news. The good news is that his music, image, and influence have pervaded the world so thoroughly that he will always be with us. Which is of course a cliche thing that gets said about every artist who dies, but in his case it is very true. Bowie is all around us, all the time; you just need the eyes to see.
When I walked into the coffee shop in Eureka this morning, “Space Oddity” was playing on the stereo. The one barista who’s always a little glammed-up was especially so, with bright pink hair and a colorful shirt and pants. As I walked in he was telling someone, “David Bowie taught me how to be myself.” Pointing to his plumage, he added, “He’s responsible for all this.”
People are telling me that David Bowie is dead. I find this hard to believe, for many reasons, but perhaps it is so. More later.
So…two days later and I have listened to each of the new Bowie songs a couple of times, but I still haven’t sat down and listened to the whole album all the way through. I’m going to do that right now.
1. “Blackstar”: This is a monumental piece of work. Ominous and grandiose, but also kind of sly and funny. Although I’m led to believe that’s a human drumming, the percussion makes obvious reference to the drum’n’bass stylings of Earthling (not to mention “Sunday”).
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It’s a big day for Bowieists today: David turns 69 and releases his 26th studio album, Blackstar.
There may or may not be time for a detailed consideration today. Consider this a placeholder. Or, if you prefer, a black spot – an empty space to be filled in later.
In the meantime…
A quiet Sunday in mid-December seems like a good time for an update on some of my ongoing obsessions.
I hoped to be sitting here today writing that the Golden State Warriors are still undefeated at 25-0. And I guess I just did, but that was not intended to be a factual statement. Playing their last game of a 7-game road trip, fresh off an exhausting double-overtime victory against the Boston Celtics, the Dubs finally succumbed to reality and lost in Milwaukee last night. That leaves them at 24-1, for a tidy .960 winning percentage. Good enough.
Once Upon a Time in Shaolin
There was an interesting twist this week in the saga of the Wu-Tang Clan’s Once Upon a Time in Shaolin, the only copy of which which was finally sold recently, for what was reported to be something in the $2 million area. The identity of the buyer was not disclosed until a few days ago, when it turned out to be: Martin Shkreli, the capitalist supervillain who’s gotten a lot of bad press lately for acquiring obscure pharmaceuticals and drastically raising the prices. (Here’s one sample headline: “‘Most hated man in America’ raises drug prices again.”) This prompted RZA and co. to say they were going to donate most of the money to charity. Which, whatever, that’s nice. My hope, though, is that Shkreli – who’s badly in need of some good PR – will do the right thing and share Once Upon a Time in Shaolin with the world (my understanding of the legalities is that he is allowed to give it away, but not to profit from it). So come on, Martin, let’s do this thing.
Meanwhile, Mr. David Bowie released a new single recently: “Blackstar,” which at 9:59 clocks in as the second-longest song in the Bowie oeuvre (behind only “Station to Station”). And it is quite a piece of work, starting as some kind of dark electronic chant, then morphing into a middle section that’s by turns sweetly melodic and aggressively funky, which in turn is slowly swamped by the return of the original theme. There’s a hell of a lot in there; after a dozen listens, I feel like I’m only beginning to unpack its contents. “Blackstar” is seriously strange, hauntingly beautiful, and even kind of funny. It’s David Bowie. It’s 2015. I like it.
With 2016 on the horizon, Ave Vigoda, age 94, against all odds remains alive. I for one take comfort in that.
In the news today was a story saying that David Bowie has officially retired from live performance. This comes as no huge surprise, as David has not played a gig since 2004, nor has he shown any particular inclination to do so.
And it’s probably just as well; Dave is creeping up on 70 now, and though his voice still sounds pretty good on record, it might not be able to stand up to the rigors of a lengthy performance, to say nothing of an actual tour. I had been holding out some hope that he might see fit to favor with us one last show, hopefully simulcast worldwide, but seemingly it is not to be. Though, of course, it is Bowie’s prerogative to change his mind; remember when he said he would never play his hits again after the 1990 tour? “Going back on my word is part and parcel of what I do for you,” said Mr. B back in 2003. “Part of my entertaining factor is lying to you.”
I was fortunate enough to have him lie to me in person four times: once with Tin Machine, once on the Earthling tour, and twice on the “A Reality Tour.” The first two were, on the whole, disappointments. I liked Tin Machine more than most people, but their live show (at the Warfield in SF) was a bit of a slog. I remember that they did a noisy version of the Pixies’ “Debaser,” which was pretty cool, and that “If There Is Something” sounded good. Other than that it didn’t leave much of an impression.
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Poking around Chris O’Leary’s Pushing Ahead of the Dame today, I was struck by the following passage about David Bowie’s 1999 sessions with the band Rustic Overtones:
The band had wanted to invite Bowie for a [ping-pong] match during the sessions but thought better of it: this was a serious rock artiste, after all. Later, they read that Bowie was actually an avid ping-pong player and once had an epic match with Lou Reed.
Sadly, I was unable to find any photographic evidence of a table tennis match between Messrs. Bowie and Reed, but I did find this:
And this, which I believe is from The Man Who Fell to Earth:
Which was enough to make me pretty happy. Note the Batman symbol on David’s kimono. Awesome.