I almost wish I didn’t have anything to write about today for Just Jot It January.
You know me, I’ll waffle on quite happily about any old rubbish, don’t get me wrong, but this challenge forces me to try and come up with an original or topical subject every day and today has brought me one that I really don’t want to have to write about.
Or rather, I’ve got to write about it for a reason I wish I didn’t have.
The Cracked Actor, The Thin White Duke, Ziggy Stardust, Aladdin Sane, Major Tom; all names synonymous with originality and eclectic musical genius, all of whom would be worthy of the plaudits and tributes of their peers, even if they had only made individual contributions to our understanding of what makes popular music such an unquantifiable medium to express artistic individuality.
Except of course, we know that these flamboyant and larger than life characters were all facets of the same unique and groundbreaking artist, the one of a kind cultural chameleon who was David Bowie.
I quite literally didn’t believe it this morning, when the very first story on my Facebook newsfeed informed me that possibly the greatest musical hero of my generation was no longer with us.
It’s difficult to imagine a British musical landscape without the genre-defying presence of a man who saw no incongruity in a career that embraced musical forms that included glam, pop, rock, new wave, dance and blue eyed soul, as well as an indefinable style that can only be described as Bowie-esque.
His influence and inspiration are so ingrained in our musical heritage, so far reaching and ubiquitous, that the idea of him no longer surprising us with another unpredictable reinvention is almost unthinkable.
If Mick Jagger had announced that the Rolling Stones were going to release a trip hop concept album, I suspect (no, I hope) that he would have been roundly mocked and told that he should leave that sort of thing to the youngsters.
And yet, when Bowie brought out a Drum and Bass record at the age of fifty, nobody batted an eyelid, because he’s David Bowie and that’s exactly the sort of thing we had grown to expect from him.
I mean, if one artist can produce a bombastic rock masterpiece and an ultra-slick soul classic in two consecutive years, then, musically speaking, all bets are off.
Which is precisely what made it so difficult for an industry obsessed with pigeonholing, to pin down a man whose hunger for change and personal discovery put him outside the normal definition of a pop star.
Because that is exactly why we loved him; we just didn’t know what he was going to do next.
The man who started his career as plain old Davy Jones achieved something that few, if any, musicians have managed before or since; to become an accessible and populist teen idle, an enigmatic underground cult figure, a genuine, stadium-filling Rock God, a movie star, a consistently original and influential visual artist and an almost universally loved national treasure and the true wonder of his astonishing legacy is that none of this seemed in the least bit contradictory or contrived.
I can’t remember a time in my life that hasn’t been soundtracked by David Bowie’s music.
Whether it was hearing the quirky psychedelia of The Laughing Gnome on Radio One’s Junior Choice as a kid, seeing the extraordinary video for Ashes To Ashes for the first time, or the shiver of emotion that came from hearing him tell the crowd that “You are the real heroes of this concert” at Live Aid, Bowie has always been at the forefront of innovation and he personifies what makes pop music such a fascinating art form.
I was initially shocked at how much emotion was stirred up by today’s sad news, but I suppose that, given the fact that here was a man who provided the soundtrack to my entire life, I shouldn’t be surprised that writing this post has caused a certain dampness around the eyes and a little difficulty in swallowing the lump in my throat.
I leave you with two milestones in a career that has spanned half a century of musical transformations; first the story of probably his most memorable creation, Ziggy Stardust, followed by his most recent release, Blackstar.
Goodbye and thank you Major Tom, it’s now time to leave the capsule if you dare.
David Robert Jones: 08/01/47 – 10/01/16.