What to say about Bowie?
I have seen many beautiful eulogies, tributes and obituaries.
It was such a shock. I didn’t know he was sick, but that was a wise move from Bowie. He wasn’t hounded in the press until his dying breath. There were no long-lensed shots of him on the way to and from the hospital, looking gaunt and frail.
His final (26th!) album, Blackstar, was released two days before his death. Coincidence? Of course not. Bowie was a great publicist and artist, as well as a top-notch musician and composer. The album’s producer, Tony Visconti said that Bowie had planned for the album to be his swan song, or “parting gift”, for his fans before his death. It is a short album, at seven tracks, so may well be unfinished.
I see Bowie as a composer rather than a songwriter. Look at ‘Life On Mars’, or ‘Space Oddity’. The parts make the songs. The instrumentation, timbre, production and arrangements of his magical songs were inventive and original. Heroes, a three chord song; Bowie enlisted the amazing guitarist Robert Fripp (King Crimson) to fill out the texture on that song. If you strum the chords, it just doesn’t come across – the production made that song. Bowie could knock out an acoustic solo version no trouble, but his genius was further expressed in what he did with the amazing songs that he wrote.
Bowie’s knack for writing catchy, edgy, artsy songs seemingly knew no bounds. Everybody wanted to work with him, because everything he touched turned to gold. Collaborators included Queen, Billy Corgan, Brian Eno, Mick Jagger and many others.
We will never see the like of Bowie again. At 69, he was taken early, and the world is a darker, duller place without him.
Here are some great live and studio versions of Bowie songs that I love (click on the links), if you are interested:
I know that better eulogies have been written, by better musicians. But, I had some things that I wanted to say, and I thought that I should say them.
RIP David Jones, we miss you.
Cliff Smith, January 2016