David Bowie: Rock Music’s True Chameleon

bowie2_2446365bYesterday rock music lost another legend. David Bowie, arguably the man who invented theater rock, passed away from cancer at the too early age of 69.

Bowie came on the scene in 1969 with his first big hit “Space Oddity.” His androgynous appearance unquestionably fueled his popularity, and he was already taking elements that became popular towards the end of the psychedelic era and started to fuse them in his performances, becoming one of the forerunners of what became known as glam rock. It wasn’t until 1972 when he came back into the scene, this time as the fictional character Ziggy Stardust, and his concept album The Rise And Fall Of Ziggy Stardust And The Spiders From Mars. It was at this time that David Bowie really started to explore the use of theater in conjunction with music, taking musical performance and employing roles, characters, and stagecraft to tell a story and create a universe within the confines of a concert. Through this he also started to change the landscape of science fiction. What once was an area reserved for TV shows and the occasional off-beat movie, he took what would eventually become a beloved and very popular genre and expanded it into the world of music.

Such was his passion for the genre that he even starred in a cult favorite film, The Man Who Fell To Earth, a movie that was initially dismissed by the mainstream, and is now celebrated for its dark and psychologically disturbing representations of an alien on Earth.

After that he started to reinvent himself even more, including the character of the Thin White Duke. And even after that he still ventured into other genre areas; in movies he played Jareth the Goblin King in Labyrinth, and in concert he presented one of his most theatrical ventures in “The Glass Spider Tour.”

Through all of this Bowie was continuing to uncover layers of himself, but it wasn’t until late in his career when he simply discovered his true “Bowie.” He found comfort in his own skin, and while he wasn’t on the record/tour grind like he did so many years earlier, when he did perform it was with a joy that he never fully experienced before.

I had the pleasure of seeing Bowie on what he had originally deemed a sort of “farewell tour” as he was getting ready to embark on a new career with the band Tin Machine. The concert was absolutely magnificent, and while the theatrics were actually kept to a minimum, I remember Bowie as being absolutely magnificent simply as a performer on the stage.

I will miss David Bowie, and even though I already knew before this sad news that I would most likely never see him perform again, the world of rock music that I grew up with has just become a little bit dimmer now that the light of Ziggy Stardust has gone out.

Rest in peace Ziggy.

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