Music to Your Ears: A Long Life on Mars

Once in a while, there is a death in the entertainment world that is so massive that the day is taken up by their life. For a week or so, we’ll be talking about David Bowie. When I received the news that the artist sometimes known as Ziggy Stardust had finally taken up beyond Mars, I was still riding the high from last night’s Golden Globes conversations with Cory. It hit me sometime today, but this is going to be happening more and more as we get older – obviously as we know more of contemporary artists, we’ll mourn their loss. Social media and the internet has only heightened this, much like we saw as the wildfire grew when acting great Robin Williams fell in 2014.

For now, though, I want to talk about David Jones, just for a minute.

The first notice I ever had of David Bowie was in 1998, when alt-rock band The Wallflowers (Bob Dylan’s son!) covered his mega-hit Heroes for the Godzilla soundtrack. It’s an oddity for sure, but actually a pretty good (if not too faithful) cover. My father had his album Aladdin Sane which I gave a listen to, as I did to a lot of classic music around that time. I wasn’t crazily impressed, though I latched onto the song Panic in Detroit later – when my friend’s girlfriend made me an integral mix CD that defined my musical tastes for the next (and now past) decade. Panic is the eighteenth track on that album, closing it out with one of the greatest flourishes I’ve heard in classic rock.

Soon after the mix CD fell into my hands in 2005, Bowie began popping up in various pop culture elements – he was Nikola Tesla in The Prestige alongside Hugh Jackman, and he was an integral character on one of my favorite TV shows ever, The Venture Bros. He was always an otherworldly figure to me, one of the gods of music. Wes Anderson even thought so, placing signature songs inside many of his beloved films, including a genius choice to have Brazilian singer/actor Seu Jorge acoustically perform Rock n’ Roll Suicide, Lady Stardust, Starman and several others for the soundtrack to The Life Aquatic.

When I think of David Bowie, I think of my good friend Jess Copeland, who thinks his music is the absolute best. I’d have to agree with her that he would at least be one of the four pillars of my musical Mount Rushmore. A true artist, his legend was bigger than his actual output. I loved many of his songs without realizing they were his throughout my time discovering classic music:

Changes

Under Pressure (of course in collaboration with Queen)

Rebel Rebel

Life on Mars?

Space Oddity

Certainly these were some of the finest songs in classic rock. There’s not much more to be said, though Bowie was able to give us all one final goodbye, three days ago, with his 25th and final album, Blackstar.

I bought the album on the way home from Cory’s this morning and gave it a listen. While it’s difficult to listen to the whole thing without his death in mind, it becomes obvious that he knew the whole time that he would be writing his own funeral, like the Robert Duvall character in Get Low. The album is quick, but succinct, and the instrumentals are astoundingly inspirational. It’s great driving music and he utilizes percussion to great bombast, typical of his later style. If there’s any fault with the album, it’s that his lyrics aren’t terribly innovative, especially with knowledge of all that’s come previously. Understandably so, however, his vocals blend majestically with the instrumentals, making this even more of a great soundtrack to a life than anything else. Especially poignant is the finale, with a lovely segue between Dollar Days and I Can’t Give Everything Away. The start of the album is a bit odd, but wasn’t a lot of Bowie’s work? After that the meat of the art is fully displayed in songs like Girl Loves Me.

I’ll leave you with the key tracks from the final album as well as my four favorites, as well as the video to final single Lazarus, filmed eerily recently.

 

Blackstar Key Tracks: Lazarus, Dollar Days, I Can’t Give Everything Away

David Bowie Key Tracks: ChangesHeroes, Life on Mars, Panic in Detroit

 

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