How do you choose your favourite ten David Bowie songs? With immense difficulty, it turns out. I have put my ten at the bottom of his post (Spotify Playlist here) and I am bereft at how much is left out. Where’s Station to Station? Where’s Five Years? Starman? Ashes to Ashes? Breaking Glass?
He was an artist for every season and few can hold a candle to him; any attempt at a definitive ten is bound to fail and I know my selection is only how I feel today. But what a joy his back catalogue is, even in the face of the heartbreaking news that he has died.
As I sift through his formidable legacy, I can’t help but smile to myself as each new song starts, because so many are dark, sexy, edgy, ethereal, uplifting, danceable, brilliant pieces of art. And as I catch myself smiling, another tear forms for the loss.
The New Yorker captured the sentiment by writing “This was not supposed to happen. Ever” And why should it? It’s not as if anyone really believed Bowie was one of us.
The outpouring of love, raw emotion and overwhelming gratitude that has been expressed today is hard to quantify. He was a man that changed the world again and again, always in his own image. Scarcely has anyone existed that has managed to affect culture in such a profound way and so many people have so artfully been able to vocalise their feelings; my Mum, a massive fan since she was twelve added that when you put his music on, you could be whoever you wanted to be. How beautiful that this man could have touched the life of my Mum as she grew up, he allowed her to dream of what could be. He let so many dream, though.
I am so thrilled that I took Mum to the Bowie exhibition at the V&A so we could share our love for him. Especially good were the moments when the wireless headphones we wore for the show cut off one song and started another abruptly- always betraying Mum singing along just like so many others. Today she told me how she loved it when visiting me at Christmas, I went to my room to wrap presents and played Bowie loudly, keeping that connection we have going.
Surely we all feel a personal loss today, because for me it’s as if an uncle I was awfully fond of has made his exit.
My boyfriend and I have listened to Criminal World endlessly, I have idly wondered that if we went down the traditional route and had a first dance at our wedding, I’d be thrilled to have it to this. Why? Because even if nobody else at the wedding knew it, it didn’t matter because it’s Bowie and he sort of transcends things like a room full of people going “I don’t know this. Why are they moving about to this?” You never need a reason when it’s Bowie.
This exit is tragic and untimely. Yet Bowie has left behind a body of work that will endure, a body of work fit for a hundred men, not just one. Genius is something we may never understand, but the story of Under Pressure, in my eyes the best song Queen were ever involved with, exposes what genius is. Bowie dominated Queen, as Brian May explained. “It was very hard, because you already had four precocious boys and David, who was precocious enough for all of us.” You can read the story here. He called the shots, created a masterpiece that and got his way. Just imagine one man taking on Queen and winning, when one of the members of Queen is Freddie Mercury, who could sing everyone out of the park.
It is fitting that Bowie was able to get his own way to the very last, launching a musical and a beautiful new album as his goodbye gift to us whilst battling the cancer that could only take him when he was done with his business. Like the story of Lazarus, Bowie was a miracle.
The Secret Life of Arabia
A New Career in a New Town