January 12, 2016

David Bowie has died.

With him, and for a general consumer of music, it can be difficult to know where to start when discussing Mr. Bowie’s creations, as he consistently re-invented his stage persona and music to remain current with popular culture.  As a result, depending on when you started paying attention, he could have been any number of characters.

For me, though, it is pretty easy.  Mr. Bowie’s The Rise and Fall of Ziggy Stardust and the Spiders From Mars cast a very long shadow over my life.  Part of this was due to the fact that it was released (in 1972) during a particularly difficult time in my life, and I have a very long, well-established association between the songs and those events.  The other part was due to the variety of textures presented via the songs themselves.  There is only one other album for which I owned the vinyl record, an 8-track tape, a cassette tape, a CD, and the digital versions.  I also have a VHS of D.A. Pennebaker’s Ziggy Stardust and the Spiders From Mars: The Motion Picture, which is a documentary of Mr. Bowie’s last performance as Ziggy Stardust.  Mick Ronson’s guitar chord intro to the title track is playing as a loop in my head as I am writing this.  I first heard those chords echoing down a dark, stone hallway and they never left.

Ziggy Stardust led me to other albums from that era of Mr. Bowie’s canon:  Hunky Dory, which contains the song “Changes”-John Hughes included some lyrics from this song in the opening of The Breakfast Club; and The Man Who Sold the World, which leads off with “The Width of a Circle”, a sweeping, driving mix of tempo and sound.

While Mr. Bowie sang songs from the Ziggy Stardust album in later concerts, he never went back to being Ziggy Stardust.

None of this is to (necessarily) be read as an endorsement for these particular records/songs.  Some may prefer Mr. Bowie’s latter work, or not at all.  It does, however, speak to the powerful effect music can have when linked to particular developmental stages and life events.

Fare-thee-well Starman.

Take care.

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