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David Bowie: The Man Who Fell to Earth

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“What a strange girl you are… flung out of space.” Patricia Highsmith, The Price of Salt.

We saw the movie Carol on Friday night. In the movie and novel which preceded it, Carol meets shopgirl Therese and is at once lovestruck, commenting that Therese seems flung out of space, with no connection to anything that came before or after. It’s a line that sticks with you long after you hear it and that was what came to mind when we awoke to the news that David Bowie had passed away at age 69.

Bowie seemed to arrive from outer space, an oddity who blossomed from mod to glam to alien and beyond. You could call him a musician, but he was really a performance artist with no connection to anyone who came before or after.

 

bowie madonna

Bowie made public art for 50 years and was never once predictable. At no point was he “on trend,” nor would I call him a “trendsetter.” He was outside of trend. The rest of the world was invited to catch up… or not.

Music critic Chris Barton observed that you cannot capture the Bowie the musician in five tracks, although he gamely lists Suffragette City, Ashes to Ashes, Heroes, I’m Afraid of Americans, and Lazarus as five to think about.

Influence

As a matter of influence, Bowie is everywhere. I think of artists like Kanye West, who seem to inhabit themselves fully without fear, as natural relatives of Bowie. West said, “David Bowie was one of my most important inspirations, so fearless, so creative, he gave us magic for a lifetime.”

Visually, Bri described his appearance as Jareth in the movie Labyrinth as “setting the sexuality of many girls and boys free.” We were just looking through our records on Saturday, pulling out a copy of Heroes we scored last year. Bri’s thrift store hunt for the Labyrinth soundtrack continues apace.

heroes

Image Comics’ The Wicked + the Divine, which depicts pop stars as literal gods, relies heavily on imagery inspired by David Bowie, West and other musicians.

Via Comics Alliance

Via Comics Alliance

Indeed, writer Kieron Gillen explained, “David Bowie saved my life. David Bowie has saved more people’s lives than Batman!”

Of course Bowie’s androgynous spaceman influenced pop music, movies and art, but also deeply impacted many people who are outside the traditional gender spectrum.

Look Up Here, I’m in Heaven

Lazarus is a track on Bowie’s 25th and final album, released just last Friday on Bowie’s 69th birthday. He explains where he is, where he was, and where he is going, using language that is signature Bowie:

Look up here, I’m in heaven
I’ve got scars that can’t be seen
I’ve got drama, can’t be stolen
Everybody knows me now

Look up here, man, I’m in danger
I’ve got nothing left to lose
I’m so high it makes my brain whirl
Dropped my cell phone down below

Ain’t that just like me

By the time I got to New York
I was living like a king
Then I used up all my money
I was looking for your ass

This way or no way
You know, I’ll be free
Just like that bluebird
Now ain’t that just like me

Oh I’ll be free
Just like that bluebird
Oh I’ll be free
Ain’t that just like me

The video, released on Thursday, really should’ve prepared us for his death (which is exactly what he wanted). It opens with a dead spaceman. It then shows Bowie emerging from a closet into a hospital. Where he is then a blind man confined to a bed. He’s fighting nightmares and fever… he lurches above the bed as if seeing someone in a vision… and then he levitates, as a young and strong version of himself appears, dancing around the room. Then Bowie sits in front of a journal and pours his soul into that journal, before disappearing back into the closet.

He departs.

Ain’t that just like me

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