I was surprised this morning to hear that David Bowie has died. I had no idea that he was sick--why would I? He just released an album, which sounds like it's fabulous. This podcast made me want to go out and buy the CD right now, except that no stores are open.
I've always been intrigued by David Bowie's ability to reinvent himself--and often to become exactly what the culture needed, but didn't know they needed.
I need that message that I, too, can reinvent myself too--it's never too late to explore different possibilities for my life and my art. I love the fact that David Bowie spent the last years of his life creating a jazz album that's not only a solid effort, but may well come to be considered a brilliant contribution to the field.
I also admire David Bowie for seeming to stay above societal pressure in his art. The easy thing would be to do what one has always done, what the fans clamor for, what society expects one to be. David Bowie rarely bowed to those pressures.
I feel that Bowie's music was part of the sonic backdrop of my youth. In the 70's, when he experimented with personas and androgyny and different styles (in terms of both music and clothes), I was young and not allowed to watch much TV, so I wouldn't have known about any of that. But my mom had the radio on throughout the day, and we listened to AM stations which played a wide variety of music--so you might hear "Fame" followed by something by the Eagles and then an old Johnny Cash song then "Space Oddity," and then something from Glen Campbell and then a Beatles song.
And then came the album Let's Dance, which seemed to play throughout my last year of high school. "Modern Love may be my all-time favorite Bowie song. Or would it be "Under Pressure," which combines Bowie's talents with one of my all-time favorite bands, Queen?
So many songs to choose from! I'll take my Best of Bowie CD with me today and listen and mourn.
I always feel a twinge of sadness when I hear of someone's passing--but when it's someone as talented as David Bowie, the world seems washed in tears.
Years ago, I couldn't get enough of the song "Heroes." I was reading apocalyptic literature, as I usually am, listening to that song, and this poem emerged. It has been unpublished until now.
With the ruins
of an industrial city behind
us, we see the sun
shine on this beach of stones.
It pours through the poisonous
haze, and we remember our mothers
who praised the virtues
of fresh air and sunshine,
the cure for all ailments.
We wish for that healing but can’t hold
much hope. We share
the last peach that the planet
will produce, at least in our lifetimes.
You hand me a chunk of cheese.
I pour the last of the wine.
Our kisses taste of luxuries lost.
We strip to our bare skins
to lie on the sun-soaked stones,
ignoring the risks of radiation
seeping into our cells,
to feel this way
one last time.
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