Wednesday, January 13, 2016

The Influence of a Legend

The loss of David Bowie is being felt all around the world, and yesterday the outpouring of remembrance, grief, and anecdotes about how he changed people's lives vastly outnumbered the criticisms and the cynicism that always seem to crop up when large numbers of people are talking about the same thing.

Though I was by no means a Bowie super-fan or anything, the worldwide conversation has gotten me thinking about this man who was a major influence on my life, even if not directly.

As I said, I can't really say I was a fan of David Bowie. I didn't dislike him and, indeed, there are a few songs of his that I actively enjoy, but I had never really listened to one of his albums until last year ("The Rise and Fall of Ziggy Stardust and the Spiders From Mars"), and I haven't immersed myself in his world much beyond that.

I've also never watched Labyrinth. In fact, other than some songs I'd hear occasionally on the radio (that I honestly never recognized as Bowie songs), I think most of my experience with him is probably from The Venture Bros.

So, why should David Bowie's death effect me?

Well, first of all, I have a lot of friends who were Bowie fans, it seems, and I'm inclined to commiserate. Bowie was a weird, talented person whose life as a queer, flamboyant pop star who changed personas every few years served as an inspiration to the weird and the unpopular. I don't know much about David Bowie's history or what he was really like in person, but his legacy is that he inspired many people to be more confident and accepting, which is a pretty amazing accomplishment. For that alone I'm glad he existed and lived the life he did.

The other obvious reason to reflect on David Bowie's life is his music. Though I'm not all that familiar with his discography, I know enough to say that his influence on popular music--rock, punk, pop, etc--can't be overstated. From what I understand, he'd constantly experiment and create sounds that would inspire genres, even as he was already moving on to the next thing. He was a friend and collaborator to some of my favorite bands, and he continues to be an influence on new and upcoming musicians. You can probably do a "six degrees from Kevin Bacon" style game with David Bowie and music.

Anyway, I'm not going to give a breakdown of all the ways David Bowie influenced popular culture and, by extension, my life. You can get a better idea of that from the thousands of memorials that are being posted on every website since the news broke.

Suffice to say that, super fan or not, I understand that the loss of David Bowie is a very sad occasion, and we can all only dream of having as much of an impact on the world as he did.

To commemorate his life, the album I'll be listening to this week as part of my "listen to 52 albums I've never listened to before" resolution will be David Bowie's farewell album, Blackstar. I hear it's weird, but so is life, so let's enjoy it.

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