THE NEW GILDED AGE (Part 2)
THE NEW GILDED AGE (Part 2)
13th January, 2016 0
I'm a little embarrassed...I guess. It's strange to feel such loss and sadness for someone I've never even been in the same room with. I mean, I didn't know the man, he wasn't a relative, he never came to visit and we never caught up on the phone, but I know I will miss him for the rest of my life.
My earliest thoughts were those of wanting: wanting to sing and play guitar. I needed to be on stage and nothing else would ever really matter to me. As a young boy I saw the effect Elvis had on virtually everyone with his music and his personal charisma. But looking in the mirror I knew I was nothing like him...the perfect, slicked back, jet black hair, even when it was messed up it was perfect. The baby blue eyes, tan skin and lady killer smile...nope... nothing in common with me at all. I watched as the world stopped every time The Beatles took the stage. They were so powerful together, raw and exotic, greater than the sum of their parts, they seemed so manly, confident and cool. Nothing at all like me.
Then there was David Bowie - skinny, pale, red hair, nervous and weird, just like me! And somehow he was doing it...standing there in front of thousands, playing guitar and singing and they loved him! At first I was scared of him. I was very young and many people back then still considered this to be "the devil’s music". There was real fear about what these sounds could do to your soul.
I remember being shocked at this creature on stage. I'd never seen hair like that in my life...no clue it was actually the very first mullet and soon everyone in the world would be rocking that look. I felt like I was watching something alien, something ethereal. He was no imitator or wannabe. There was simply nothing like him, nothing that came before to compare him to. His movements were so strange and creepy that they gave me an uneasy feeling. I felt like maybe I shouldn't be watching this, maybe I should turn the channel before my dad walked in.
The band started playing and my heart raced, my palms got sweaty and when the camera closed in on his face, I couldn’t breathe. His eyes were terrifying...two different colors, cold and steely. It's amazing how the absence of such a simple thing like eyebrows can distort a face. He looked like an escaped psycho or cult leader...hollow cheeked with a smile that would make Lucifer nervous.
And then he sang.
That voice...the command of that voice, the originality of that voice. How could it be so scary and so comforting at the same time? He wasn't trying to be anything but himself. He wasn't trying to sound like anything that he wasn't and that seemed so brave to a skinny, pale, carrot top kid in Flint Michigan.
The fear left and I lost myself in that performance. Ch-ch-ch-ch changes...Turn and face the strange changes. It was like he knew he was changing everything for me. Nothing would ever be the same. That song is one of those rarities in life that never ages, never dulls or becomes stale, always evolving with me, and uncovering new and more personal meaning with every listen. I love almost all his work, but that one was the first.
I would find deeper connections with other artists as I grew, but I never stopped listening to Bowie. How could I? He never stopped reinventing himself and each new persona would be so different and interesting and so relevant to what was happening around me. It was like he grew bored with himself. I never really understood that until much later in life. It’s so clear to me today. The courage it takes to try new identities and to leave behind the old ones...the ones everyone loved, is immeasurable.
He was so far ahead of his time and still accepted in it. A truly rare thing to achieve. For me, David Bowie defines what an artist is: never the same, never safe, never boring, never predictable, never stagnant, and never dying.
So to me, he is still somewhere, out there, working on the next thing that will blow me away and that everyone will be copying in a year or two whether they know it or not.
These artists were not Gods, but to my generation they were certainly more than just men. So part of the pain that came with news of his passing is derived from having to face my own mortality and dreams that have never come true.
He was 69. Sixty-nine total years on the planet. How long before I'm 69? Who says I get to live THAT long? Nobody. What will the world be like without him? Who's next? How will this change the way his music sounds to me? Will I be able to hear beyond death, past the finality of the grave, into the past, where it just seemed brighter, innocent and more hopeful?
I never actually knew him, yet the world does seem a bit greyer today without all of his color. But isn't that way it is with true artists? Aren't they the brave few who open their hearts and expose their souls in the hope that we might make a connection? A real, human connection, sometimes deeper and more profound than what we experience with people in our "real" lives.
There is no outrage with this, no cries of "Why?" This was not a "young" person. This was not a murder or an accident. This was a 69-year old man with cancer.
So, yeah, I'm a little embarrassed. I cried today, for someone I never met. I cried because today I lost the first person that ever said "You can too". "You can be a pale, redheaded little weirdo and you can do it, too.
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THE NEW GILDED AGE (Part 2)