||David Bowie: A man of sound and vision
Dancing About Architecture
by Marc 'Moose' Moder
This article shared 2672 times since Wed Jan 13, 2016
Much will be written in the years to come of the life, death and in-between of most influential artist of our time, David Bowie, after this week's news of his passing. The point cannot be made harder that Bowie changed the face of popular music, not once or twice like most superstars, but over his entire career. With abbreviation, here's a brief look at some of the key ways in which the White Duke made a difference in our pop lives.
Electronics and rock
Being one of the first rock starts to embrace electronics, Bowie famously powwowed with producer Brian Eno after hearing Donna Summer's groundbreaking "I Feel Love" while recording his Berlin Trilogy. Electronics incorporated into rock tracks is standard practice now.
There was an entire exhibit last year at the MCA based in large part on Bowie's influence on fashion and costume. It was a rarity before Bowie ( see Sgt. Pepper's ) to see artists come out in costume, let alone take on entire characters for an album or single. This versatility and willingness to go outside his comfort zone made it okay for generations of drag queen, trans kids, club kids, and fashion designers to let go of societal norms and discover their inner fashion child.
It was nothing but a number to him. While his contemporaries were happily complacent touring their old material and even abandoning any new material, Bowie kept right on making new, groundbreaking sounds up until the age of 69, and doing it better than kids a third his age. The men of rock could use some of Bowie's balls right about now.
Sound and music
Back when MTV started, there's was a pretty small pool from which channel could choose. Bowie's "Ashes to Ashes" was one they played ad nauseam, not just for its great visuals, but because it was before a time when artists automatically did videos. If you go back to the start, Bowie always used the visual medium as well as the audio, helping to create a whole new medium.
Although he was a darling at MTV, Bowie also questioned the behemoth. In an interview with Mark Goodman back in 1982, he pushed Goodman, asking why there were no black artists on MTV, and he wasn't taking Goodman's excuses. That same year, Michael Jackson surfaced with "Billie Jean" and broke down the remaining wall. Even before that, he worked with a young Luther Vandross on "Golden Years," even appearing on Soul Train. He then went on to make an album with R&B artist sand producers Black Tie, White Noise.
While Bowie did try briefly in the '60s to fit into a pop mold, it was his second album, Space Oddity, that most consider to be his real debut. After that glam masterpiece, he rarely stuck to a sound for more than three albums. He went from glam to soul to gloom/electronic/experimental in the '70s, then turned full pop in the '80s, industrial in the '90s, and then fully experimental in the '00s; Bowie was not going to be what you wanted him to be, unless what you wanted was surprise and artistry. He taught us and other artists that you must challenge to make great art, and never do what's expected.
He didn't have to tell Melody Maker in 1972 he was bisexual ( a decision he'd later regret ), but he did, and declared his alter ego Ziggy Stardust to be bisexual as well. At that time, sexuality was rarely discussed in private, let alone by a major star in print. Whatever his motive for his revelation, it was a clear bell to those young queer kids like Marc Almond, Neil Tennant and Boy George, along with countless others, that there was more than what is never spoken. It would be decades before it was again okay to be an out pop star, and by now it rarely makes a blip on the radar when it happens, and can often help a queer artist's career ( although not always ).
Volumes could be written about the ways this one man changed our lives, and it might takes us years to sort it out and absorb. Bowie's influence and impact is not just seen in the careers of Madonna, Lady Gaga and Janelle Monae, but in every artist free to be themselves and to reflect their true selves back at you, making us all a little Bowie.
This article shared 2672 times since Wed Jan 13, 2016
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