There’s a Starman Waiting in the Sky

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David Bowie at the Rock am Ring festival
David Bowie at the Rock am Ring festival. Photo: Jo Atmon. CC BY-SA 2.0 de

I write this in the aftermath of losing one of the most influential musicians, if not the most influential, the world has ever witnessed.

Blackstar, Bowie’s new album, was released on Friday 8th January 2016, which coincided with his birthday. Blackstar is an album unlike anything he has done before, and has a much darker side than we are used to. Blackstar is Bowie’s parting gift to this world before he finally left to meet the starman waiting in the sky and was released just two days before his death from liver cancer.

Unsurprisingly the album stormed to the top of the UK charts and sold 150,000 copies in its first week knocking Adele’s 25 off the top spot almost immediately, putting an end to her seventh week at the top. Bowie achieved his tenth Number 1 album.

On the iTunes chart Bowie’s Blackstar also shot to No 1, Best of Bowie was at No 3 and his 1972 album, The Rise and Fall of Ziggy Stardust and the Spiders from Mars, was at No 8.

David Bowie in the Meistersaal Studio
In the Meistersaal studio. Photo: In3s. CC BY-SA 3.0

If someone were to ask me: “What’s your favourite David Bowie track?,” a standard answer would be “Let’s Dance” or “Space Oddity,” but no. My favourite track, which also happens to be accompanied by my favourite music video of all time, is “Ashes to Ashes” (1980). (Disagree? Take the poll below.) The riff throughout “Ashes to Ashes” makes it thoroughly interesting to listen to and the odd video which depicts Bowie in the gaudy and rather eerie Pierrot costume becomes the visual identification with his Scary Monsters Album.

Bowie during 'Isolar II – The 1978 World Tour'
Bowie during ‘Isolar II – The 1978 World Tour’ Photo: Helge Øverås. CC BY 3.0

The “Ashes to Ashes” lyrics contrast with those in Space Oddity, where Major Tom is a hippy astronaut and a “Junky, strung out in heavens high, hitting an all time low.” The lyric is reminiscent of his earlier “Low” album in 1977. Bowie said referencing Ashes to Ashes “It’s very much a 1980s nursery rhyme. I think 1980s nursery rhymes will have a lot to do with the 1880s/1890s nursery rhymes which are all rather horrid and had little boys with their ears being cut off and stuff like that.”

David Bowie as Ziggy Stardust during the Ziggy Stardust Tour.
As Ziggy Stardust during the Ziggy Stardust Tour. Photo: Rik Walton. CC BY-SA 2.0

He also told NME, shortly after its release in 1980 that  “it really is an ode to childhood….a popular nursery rhyme. It’s about space men becoming junkies” (he laughs).

David Bowie does not just leave behind a phenomenal array of music but also his iconic sense of fashion. Bowie was the first to popularise outlandish clothes and inspire teens and adults alike to dress with style and individuality.

David Bowie's star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame.
David Bowie’s star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame. Photo: iluvrhinestones. CC BY-SA 2.0

Bowie declared himself as bisexual in a Playboy interview in 1976, allowing a generation of performers to come out and express themselves more honestly.

Bowie was a heavy smoker throughout his life and is rarely pictured off-stage or in an interview without a cigarette. He was also addicted to drugs and once said that cocaine was his soulmate. His decade long drug abuse was well publicised in the press. Perhaps we should be surprised that he made it to 69!

The ripple which Bowie’s death has created shows how much he will be missed by fans, celebrities and those who worked with him. The age of 69 is too young for a man like Bowie, who inspired so many aspects of popular music, to pas away. Bowie died of liver cancer – he was suffering for 18 months secretly but lost his battle just days after his birthday.

So, although we say goodbye this week to a musical legend, we should look to the future and use him to influence further popular music now and for further generations. I think it vitally important that Bowie is remembered and held up as a figure of exploration for music. Without a doubt his music will live on forever.

R.I.P.

Bowie in Chicago, August 2002
Bowie in Chicago, August 2002. Photo: Photobra|Adam Bielawski. CC BY-SA 3.0

David Bowie

(1947-2016)

What was David Bowie's best song?

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Total Voters: 21