David Bowie, an artist, innovator, boundary pusher, a man who changed rock music and made being a weird outsider acceptable, has died. The man who fell to Earth may no longer be with us, but his music and cultural impact will continue on.
My first introduction to Bowie (outside the radio hits) was when he teamed up with Nine Inch Nails in the mid-90s for the single, “I’m Afraid of Americans.” At the time, I was very much into industrial music, and had heard NIN’s Trent Reznor talk up a storm about how much of an influence Bowie was in his music. My best friend and I rushed out to buy this single, and we were not disappointed. I was intrigued by the weirdness of the track, Bowie’s unique vocals and Reznor’s mix of the song.
I didn’t become a Bowie fan right then, but I think it planted the seed of my interest, which would grow into fandom just a few years later.
My senior year in high school was when I really started to enjoy the music of David Bowie. I enjoyed a lot of prog rock then, but was becoming more interested in other music. As I was discovering the Clash, Replacements, hip-hop, I found myself naturally heading toward Bowie’s music. And it was in the form of a greatest hits package, which certainly isn’t the coolest way to get into an artist, but that’s how I got into Bowie.
And I was amazed by how much each track was heading in different directions than what came before. This was his style, he changed from album to album, doing whatever the hell he wanted, and it just intrigued me more. I have always respected artists who changed the direction of their ships. It is risky, honorable and keeps the music interesting. And if there is one thing about Bowie’s music, it is that you cannot really pigeonhole it into any one genre or style.
The first proper album I bought of Bowie’s was “The Rise and Fall of Ziggy Stardust and the Spiders from Mars,” which is a very solid beginner album and probably — again — not the coolest story of how someone discovered his music. But that was how I started getting heavily into his music. And it was an insanely brilliant album, not a dud on the whole thing. I probably have listened to that album countless times in my early 20s.
And it was by working in record stores throughout my 20s that I had the cool ability to venture into Bowie’s catalog. From “Hunky Dory” to “Scary Monsters” and “Let’s Dance” I was able to listen to all this wonderful music. He really was a chameleon when it came to music — again you couldn’t give his style a simple label, he moved in any direction that sparked his imagination.
My love for Bowie’s music reignited when Spotify came around and I could revisit his work again. He had spent the first decade of the 2000s relatively quiet. But when he released “The Next Day” in 2013, I realized he still had the creative spark in him. The album was excellent, and reminded me again of why David Bowie remains a major artist whose work I go back and revisit from time to time.
Last Friday, I had started writing a review for his latest album, “Blackstar.” It is really a phenomenal record, it’s brilliant from star to finish and is also one of the strangest sounding Bowie albums I’ve heard. It is eerie and dark, but still enjoyable and interesting.
And now the themes and this video from the album have a different meaning to me. It may take me a little more time to review it — if I actually do review it. But I can’t praise the album enough, and I highly recommend it for music fans.
David Bowie was an amazing, interesting and gifted artist who gave the world some of the best music ever produced. His music has been part of the soundtrack of my life over the years. He will be missed.