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LOEWEN: Bowie retrospectively: Everybody gets got

Image Credit: Compilation/Jennifer Stahn
January 13, 2016 - 8:45 AM

I stumble to the graveyard and I
Lay down by my parents, whisper
Just remember duckies
Everybody gets got

David Bowie knew what we all come to know, eventually. There’s no escape from Death’s inevitable tap at our Life’s door. There’s no bargaining with the Reaper. But if we’re mindful of the singular truth about life, we can exit with a modicum of grace and class.

It’s tough to believe that Bowie is gone. For the last couple months many of us had been looking forward to the release of Blackstar, his 25th studio album, teased by the early-release video of the disturbing and ominous title track — an artful meditation upon ISIS. A song for our times, I thought, watching the nine minute-plus opus unfold before my widening eyes for the very first time. Bowie had nailed it again, and I couldn’t wait to hear what he might follow that title track with.

As the mantle-clock chimed midnight and Sunday slipped into Monday, I roused myself from reading to ready myself for bed. CBC radio was murmuring in the background. I heard the name “David Bowie” but didn’t follow the story, figuring it was a story about the new album, released this past Friday.

But then it struck me: why would the new album be news at the top of the hour? And then a sinking feeling: Could it be that he’s dead? Frankly, I didn’t want to know the truth just yet — I’ve had enough death for a while — so I ignored the urge to check online for confirmation and went to bed, ignorant but able to sleep….

Well, it’s official now. Another of my favourite artists has passed away and the time comes to think about Bowie retrospectively. For the last forty-eight hours I have watched talking heads opine about Bowie’s contributions, witnessed the least likely folks effuse platitudinously about his “chameleon” nature; and I can honestly say it all sounds like shite to me.

While it is true that David Bowie managed always to remain at the forefront of so many platforms (music, performance, fashion), there is a quality that emerges that is inspirational for so many of us who knew his work from its earliest beginnings in the late Sixties to the present day: its transitory and transitional nature.

Perhaps Bowie’s greatest talent of all was the ability to remain open to novel and interesting influences. And perhaps this is the crux of the matter when it comes to artists aspiring to express what is so often seemingly inexpressible.

In every of the last five decades Bowie managed to arouse interest in what he was producing. But the influences upon his art didn’t stop, ever. He found profound personal interest in so many things: American blues, folk music and pop art; German Expressionism, Dada; Occidental and Oriental dance traditions; our shared intellectual inheritance of philosophy and literature; Christianity and Kabbalism; and on and on. Anything that could underscore the underlying truth of what he desired to express was fair game to include in the alchemical mix that was his art. And for many of us, his influences would become as interesting to us as they would be to the artist himself.

I have little doubt that Bowie understood himself better than any of his legions of admirers. Over the course of a frenetic life given to many enthusiasms, his early reading of the German philosopher Friedrich Nietzsche will have offered a guiding motif for the artistic life ahead. For in Nietzsche’s masterful Beyond Good And Evil, Bowie would have been nudged by this nugget:

Every profound spirit needs a mask: even more, around every profound spirit a mask is growing continually, owing to the constantly false, namely shallow, interpretation of every word, every step, every sign of life he gives.

It is impossible to create under the constant glare of the spotlight. No doubt, Bowie understood this and came to covet his privacy. And it is therefore understandable that we now hear of Bowie’s passing and it comes as a surprise — even close friends seemed to have been shielded from the knowledge that he was terminally ill.

And in the end, Bowie was able to continue creating almost to the end. A couple days after the release of his final recorded offering and news of his death comes. Graceful in his ironic anonymity, classy in excluding the world from his final days.

Rest in peace, Mr. Bowie. Everybody gets got. But the likes of you, we’ll not see again.

— Jeffrey Loewen is a Kelowna-based writer who plays music by day and politics by night

News from © InfoTel News Ltd, 2016
InfoTel News Ltd

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