Today in Pop Culture: David Bowie’s Blackstar Birthday

Published on January 8th, 2016 in: Culture Shock, Current Faves, Music, Science Fiction, Today In Pop Culture |

By Jeffery X Martin

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Today is David Bowie’s birthday and I don’t understand why anyone is at work or school. Why aren’t government offices closed? Why is this not a Federal holiday? We should all be in public parks, wearing body paint and having Aladdin Sane lookalike contests. We should put on our red shoes and dance the blues. We should be burning space capsules in effigy in the name of Major Tom.

David Bowie is 69 years old and is still cooler than everyone reading this article, combined.

Are you old enough to remember Culture Club? There was a time when their lead singer, Boy George, created a scandal with his androgynous appearance. He wore makeup. He was coy about his personal sexual identification. Boy George grabbed headlines worldwide because of his persona.

Bowie did it first.

In 1970, Bowie released the album, The Man Who Sold the World. You didn’t really think that was a Nirvana original, did you? Kurt Cobain even says on the Nirvana recording, “That was a David Bowie song.”

Bowie did it first.

The original cover of the UK release featured Bowie in a dress. He wore that dress during his US press tour for the record. He encountered laughter and threats of violence in the street for his cross-dressing. This experiment led to the creation of Ziggy Stardust, a fictional character who ended up being the subject of a concept album.

His stage shows during the Seventies were theatrical and unpredictable. On any given evening, Bowie could be seen wearing a sumo wrestler’s loin cloth or pretending to pleasure Mick Ronson’s guitar with his mouth.

From Ziggy, Bowie morphed into the natty Thin White Duke character. Gaunt in a white linen suit, Bowie seemed to be the epitome of cocaine, the gestalt shadow of a shadow.

At this time, he was combining multiple musical styles. Soul, funk, hard rock and soft rock all entered the mix. Oh, are you a Roxy Music fan? Cool.

Bowie did it first.

He was a walking art exhibition in the Seventies but he was a bona-fide superstar in the Eighties. His Let’s Dance album topped the charts and the Serious Moonlight tour which accompanied it sold out arenas around the world. He could have been a casualty of his cocaine addiction, but he pulled through it and became nothing less than a demigod.

He starred in the Jim Henson film, Labyrinth, as the Goblin King, Jareth. In a film filled with magic and mysticism, the most amazing thing was Bowie’s codpiece. His bulge both fascinated and terrified children and their parents and has since become an entity of its own. Hey, remember when Red Hot Chili Peppers wore tube socks over their junk?

Bowie did it first, and with more style.

Bowie made one of the finest albums of the Nineties, Outside, under the influence of the industrial music craze of the time. But again, he made it a concept album and played multiple characters within it. Flawed? Sure. But it’s brilliance can’t be denied and it remains one of his most accessible enigmas.

OK, Bowie didn’t do it first in this case, but he did it better than most.

Then, he disappeared. He faded away like a dream. We figured he was busy being a non-public person, enjoying life with his wife at home.

We were wrong.

The Next Day was announced in 2013 on this date in pop culture. No one knew Bowie was recording. The press had no clue he was creating a new album, but there it was two months later, topping the UK charts and reminding us precisely who was boss.

It’s not an accessible album. Like a lot of his best work, it requires some work to crack into but once you break in and find its heart, it is a treasure.

And now, we come to another red letter day. ★ (pronounced “blackstar”) drops today. Bowie has released videos for two of the songs from the record, and they are beautiful and terrifying. The songs are good, too. Trust me; there will be a ★ review as soon as possible.

Bowie is still taking chances that people half his age would never dream of. He is making art that blows peoples’ minds. His sense of fashion spawned an art exhibit last year. We are still looking to him to find out where to go next.

When you hear something new in modern music, something that really catches your attention, check your history. It’s a good bet that Bowie did it first.

And he’ll do it until the last.

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