The Cult of David Bowie
One of the earliest tragedies of 2016, the death of David Bowie, a legendary and now mystical artist, happened exactly one year ago. In retrospect, one could take it as a bad omen for what came after, but that would be underestimating the beauty of that bittersweet moment.
«I can’t give everything,
I can’t give everything
I can’t give everything
away.Seeing more and feeling less,
saying no but meaning yes.»—Lyrics of I can’t give Everything Away.
True to his reputation as an artist, even of his death Bowie made a masterpiece for the World. On January 8th, 2016, the day of his sixty-ninth birthday, he gave us ★ (Blackstar), his twenty-fifth and last album. He died two days after, and mournful themes like Lazarus o I can’t give Everything Away got a new dimension. Art and artist merged around the same event.
The celebration didn’t end then. Two das ago, on January 8th, 2017, in honor of his 70th birthday, from beyond, it would seem, he released No Plan, keeping the same tone.
«This is all I ever meant.
That’s the message that I sent.»
What makes David Bowie so special?
To those who know little or nothing about David Bowie, but have seen images of him as Aladdin Sane or Helloween Jack, it might seem strange that such a queer figure had achieved so much popularity and influence. His outfits put to shame those of Marilyn Manson and whoever goes for that kind of alien and androgynous look these days. Now, imagine that in the context of Nixon, Heath, and a young Elizabeth II. That’s Bowie, one of the great forerunners of scandalous looks, and he pulled his success out of that kind character and authenticity.
Ch-ch-Changes (Turn and face the strange)
Don’t tell them to grow up and out of it
Ch-ch-ch-ch-Changes (Turn and face the strange)
Where’s your shame
You’ve left us up to our necks in it
Time may change me
But you can’t trace time.»
All of these different people are David Bowie.
Vía Living is Easy with Ees Closed.
One of the most interesting aspects of Bowie’s stage presence, especially after the pass of time, is that he wasn’t really about any particular character he used to perform, but about his talent to conceive them and create music through them. Before Ziggy Stardust and A-ladd-in-Sane, there was Major Tom, and after them, there were many others, like Halloween Jack, the Thin White Duke, the Man Who Fell to Earth, Pierrot, and many others before his epic conclusion as Lazarus.
«And she’s hooked to the silver screen,
but the film is a saddening bore,
for she’s lived it ten times or more.»
Before all that, when he was only Davy Jones —that’s his actual name—, he tried to learn Buddhism. He didn’t continue through that path, but maybe that’s how he learned to reincarnate. And like one’s soul in Buddhist tradition, there is something that remains through all of his artistic personas: his soul as an emotional, authentic, and reflexive performer; his true character. Never mind how different they might be, or how odd they might look, all his characters are magnetic and command respect.
«But the film is a saddening bore,
cause I wrote it ten times or more,»
Marvel Comics’ Jareth, the Goblin King, DC Comics’ Lucifer Morningstar,
and The Venture Bros. Sovereign, all modeled after David Bowie.
Maybe, that’s the reason Jim Henson sought him to play Jareth, the Goblin King, in Labyrinth (1986). The same year the movie was released, Marvel Comics adapted it to comics, and that was, perhaps, Bowie’s first incursion outside of media that requires performing; the point in which he started to become a myth. His likeness and personality were used two times after that without his involvement to create supervillains.
The first time was in 1989, when the legendary Neil Gaiman (American Gods, Coraline) modeled Lucifer Morningstar, the devil in the DC Universe, after him. If Superman or Wonder Woman ever visit Hell, they might end up facing him. The character debuted in Sandman, as an antagonist of the main character, but went on to have his own series.
Something similar happened in Adult Swim’s humorous animated series, The Venture Bros. (2004—present). There, besides being a musician, still using his Thin White Duke appearance, he seems to be a shapeshifter, an acquaintance of every important supervillain, and their secret leader, the Sovereign —which totally explains the cover of Diamond Dogs.
In 2015, Gaiman returned to Bowie as inspiration in “The Return of the Thin White Duke“, a fan fiction short story that provides an origin story for the title character, with wonderful art by Yoshitaka Amano. It is part of Trigger Warning, but Gaiman posted it at his site.
Save the Goblin King, Bowie never played the rest of the characters in the posters of artist Butcher Billy, which are very popular on Internet. Does it matter? Clearly, we can imagine him rocking every role.
A compilation of images created by Butcher Billy.
«Sailors, fighting in the dance hall.
Oh man! Look at those cavemen go.
It’s the freakiest show.»
10 videos for beginners
Just in case Butcher’s excellent list of songs was not enough for those of you who want to become fans or revive some great memories (check the poster again), I’ll end this post with 10 essential videos of David Bowie.
From ‘Space Oddity’ (July 11, 1969).
From ‘Hunky Dory’ (January 7, 1971).
Life on Mars?
From ‘Hunky Dory’ (December 17, 1971).
De ‘Young Americans’ (febrero 21, 1975).
From ‘Young Americans’ (July 25, 1975).
From ‘Heroes’ (Septiember 23, 1977).
Ashes to Ashes
From ‘Scary Monsters (And Super Creeps)‘ (August 8, 1980).
From ‘Let’s Dance‘ (March 17, 1983).
From ‘Let’s Dance‘ (September, 1983).
From ‘★’ (December 17, 2015).
«I, I will be king,
and you, you will be queen.
Though nothing, will drive them away,
we can be heroes, just for one day;
we can be us, just for one day.»
- “¿Qué se siente escuchar a Bob Dylan?” —By Edgar Rivas.
- “The Cult of Bowie: Cracked Actor, Fictional Character, Supervillain” —By Bridget McGovern, for Tor•Com.
- “Top 10 David Bowie songs” —By Spencer Kaufman, for Ultimate Classic Rock.
- “Readers’ Poll: The 10 Best David Bowie Music Videos” —By Brittany Spanos, for Rolling Stone.