I wish I could say I was a devoted fan of Bowie’s. Though I can’t make that claim, when I woke up to the news this morning that David Bowie was dead, it was shocking. Even if, like me, you didn’t have all his records or had only a superficial knowledge of his music, as I do, it is impossible to overstate the impact he had on the music we love and performers who who play it. From Mott the Hoople to Iggy Pop to Lou Reed to Nirvana, Bowie had a tremendous impact on other artists and more broadly on the rock and roll music we love so much.
I’m not sure why he never quite resonated with me. Every obit column I’ve read, and that’s probably a half dozen, have written about his changeling nature. And maybe that’s been part of my problem. For decades i lived within a fairly narrow range of musical appreciation that only expanded as I entered my 50’s. If I listened to Bowie, what was I listening to? Was it Ziggy Stardust? Was it the androgynous Bowie of Hunky Dory? Was it the White Duke? Was he the decadent coke-fueled rocker of the Berlin trilogy? I was so dialed into what I liked, it was too hard figure out what Bowie was into this time.
And. of course, that was my problem, and ultimately my loss. I began to appreciate him more when I finally gave in and bought an iTunes basics collection about six years ago. When Patrick played “Moonage Daydream acoustically at a Tacoma coffeehouse four years ago, I was hooked. I made sure Ziggy Stardust was added to my record collection long before my vinyl addiction kicked in. And while it remains rather lonely on the “B” shelf, it is one of my favorite albums and “Moonage Daydream” is in my top ten songs all time.
I don’t mean to make this all about me, but as our rock heroes pass on, how we each choose to remember them will be rooted in our relation to their music. And though my relationship with Bowie was not close, I’ve always believed in his fundamental greatness and his influence on others. Listen to Iggy’s Lust for Life, it’s Bowie. Listen to Mott the Hoople’s All the Young Dudes, it’s Bowie. Despite the lack of Bowie on my vinyl shelves, it is inescapable we have lost a great light, as important to rock as Jimi Hendrix or Jim Morrison, John Lennon or Lou Reed.