“Look up here, I’m in heaven.
“I’ve got scars that can’t be seen.
“I’ve got drama, can’t be stolen. Everybody knows me now.”
— David Bowie in “Lazarus,” his musical, spiritual meditation on his impending death from cancer.
Such a powerful, wide-ranging voice it was. How it spoke with such power and immediacy as if someone were speaking directly to you as in the story of astronaut “Major Tom” in “Space Oddity.”
Ground Control to Major Tom . . .
Commencing countdown, engines on Check ignition and may God’s love be with you
Such a chameleon, great actor, fashion trendsetter and above all, a performance artist who was way ahead of his time in so many ways.
Many have noted that he made avant-garde cool. Indeed, what other avant-garde artist outside of his dear friend John Lennon’s place could have broken into traditional Top 40 Radio in such a big way. His breakthrough work was as weird and wild, in a way that was both subdued and in-your-face, as if it were coming from a space cadet on some kind of crazy and potentially dangerous “smart pill” from the future.
And yet he was as classic and stylish as Bing Crosby, with whom he famously sang “Peace on Earth/The Little Drummer Boy” on a TV Christmas special.
I remember seeing them do that duet, back in the days when TV was three channels and PBS and everybody watched Christmas specials because the TV fare was so limited and conservative. And I’m thinking, “David Bowie??? — him??? — that gender-bending weirdo, all dressed up and looking like a traditional crooner, singing with Bing Crosby???”
I had a hard time getting on the program with Bowie. But he managed to wear down my earthy, conservative Texas sensibilities. Over time, his whole body of work won over those of us who liked the soul music and something more akin to garage-band rock on our radio dials.
In time he went way more traditional and classic in his music and performing and lifestyle, but it still sounded and looked and seemed so ground-breaking.
You just never knew what you were going to get next from David Bowie.
“Under the moonlight.
“The serious moonlight.”