Tuesday, January 12, 2016

A Force - Encapsulating Time

How often can it truly be said that any one person encapsulated a time? Yet, an argument can be made that David Bowie encapsulated the 1960's and 1970's like no other artist of that time. Of course there was Janis, and Grace Slick and the omnipresent Beatles and Bob Dylan, but when I think of the 1960's and the songs that seemed to push me onward, it's Bowie who comes to mind.

Bowie was always a performance artist. He wasn't
afraid of making a statement on stage. He was always
thin, intense, and somewhat ethereal, whether playing
the Thin White Duke or just walking the streets. 

He was a rebel without an agenda. He wasn't protesting or pushing the boundaries because he wanted to go against the grain of his upbringing or society in general. He just lived his life as he felt it should be lived and that's harder to do than you might think. He married young and his rented house became a mecca for the words of that decade: "Sex, Drugs and Rock and Roll". Sex - anyone who moved, either male, female or ?? was catered to by both Bowie and Angie. Drugs - anything and everything, although cocaine was Bowie's drug of choice. Rock and roll - the be-all and end-all of Bowie was his performance - music and stage, and at that he excelled.

Here's an early Bowie - 1966 publicity shot of "The Kon-rads". Even
in a suit he looks a bit edgy. Maybe it's the saxophone? 

I like his music, but I don't think I own a single one of his albums. I have tracks of his from here and there and bits and pieces that pull me through the decades of his genius, but I don't own a lot. Thinking over time periods, though, and putting the soundtrack behind them, he has a prominent place. In the early years there was Heroes, Suffragette City and Space Oddity. Starman, Rebel Rebel, Changes, Golden Years and Jean Jennie. I can't forget Diamond Dogs, Oh! You Pretty Young Things, Absolute Beginners, Fashion, and Rock 'n Suicide. In later years there was Modern Love, Let's Dance, China Girl, Cat People and Major Tom. He sold stock in himself to finance albums and even created BowieNet in 1998 - an artist-created internet service provider - which operated for more than ten years on a subscription basis.

The "Alladin Sane" album art of 1973 is one image that has
followed Bowie through the decades. The face painting and
alter-ego performances were ground breaking. 

He was the visible front man of a generation seeking comfort in sex, drugs and rock 'n roll and he played the lead role with question marks above him. Was he male? Female, Heterosexual? Homosexual? Bisexual? What guts he had when the fashion of Carnaby Street was hitting hard, to use dyes, face paints, and skin-tight clothing as a part of his personal performance art. Bowie produced art - it was art of sound and sight, but it was a valid as a Renoir.

The "Earthling" in 1997, Bowie and Alexander
McQueen designed this Union Jack coat for the
album cover. 

I know there will be many retrospective looks at the man and his long artistic path, but to me he was the rebel who gave thousands the courage to express their own sexuality. When Bowie was linked to the Free Love movements of the late 60's and early 70's, it was an unstoppable force. But what made Bowie a legend was his continuous reinvention of himself and repackaging of his music and art. David Bowie was more than a musician, he was a Force. RIP David Bowie, I'll miss you. Have a good Tuesday, all.

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