Obligatory David Bowie Blog
I’ll just say it: I am not a David Bowie fan.
This isn’t to say I don’t like David Bowie, nor to say I don’t respect him, nor to say I have any negative feelings toward him whatsoever, or even that I don’t have positive feelings. I quite admire him–as a person, as a musician, and above all, as an artist.
Note that I separate “musician” and “artist.” They go hand in hand, but I do this very deliberately. I like music, but I am not knowledgeable enough about music in particular to truly appreciate it the way it deserves. But art is something that crosses genres, and art as a concept is something that I can appreciate in my own way.
Getting back to what I was saying: I like David Bowie. He is a person for whom I have a great deal of respect. When I say that I am not a fan, I mean simply that I am not exceptionally familiar with his work; I enjoy what I know of it, but I don’t own any of his albums, I only know a handful of his lyrics, and I’ve never seen Labyrinth. There, I said it. And that’s why, until now, I haven’t really made much comment on his passing.
But regardless, there is still a sense of loss with his passing. I realize that sounds like just jumping on the Celebrity Death bandwagon; we all suddenly care about artists immediately after they pass when we never cared about them before, right? But still when I heard the news after work the other day, something felt not quite right about it. David Bowie is a damn legend. Even if I personally was not as enthusiastic a fan as many, I still thought to myself, “David Bowie can’t die. He’s David Bowie.” The world of art–not just music, but of art–feels a little emptier without him.
Here’s my theory, why I think someone’s death can have a profound impact on people who are not overly familiar with his music: David Bowie’s art was more than his music. To quote Linkin Park frontman Chester Bennington, Bowie “transcended [his] craft to become a physical manifestation of [his] art.” He was someone you couldn’t help but be aware of and recognize the influence of.
This is a blog about literature–poetry, reading, writing, books, pages, words, and all the glorious things they can build–not about music, so it’s strange for me to be focusing on Bowie, except that he really was art. Not just music–art. I think what draws that distinction for me is the all-encompassing nature of what Bowie did. He made you notice him. He was unconventional, diverse, exploratory, and above all, unafraid, not just in his music but in his entire presentation of self and persona, and that is something that really goes well beyond music and into something any art–including literature–can take a lot from. Let me reiterate: Above all, unafraid. Even for those who aren’t David Bowie fans, per se, I think that’s something we should recognize as a crucial component that he brought to art as a whole.
I’ve been reading this poem, Don’t You Wonder, Sometimes? by Tracy K. Smith (from her book Life on Mars, Graywolf Press), repeatedly the last couple days. I think if anything can bridge the gap (what little gap there is) between Bowie and the world of literature, this would be the thing that does it.