Barb Caffrey's Blog

Writing the Elfyverse . . . and beyond

Thoughts on David Bowie

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I woke to the news that musician and composer David Bowie passed away yesterday, on January 10, 2016. He was sixty-nine.

You might be asking, “So, Barb. Why does this concern you? Sure, you listened to Bowie’s recordings…but really, what was David Bowie to you, beyond a popular musician?”

Well, Bowie was a composer, an arranger, an actor, a husband, a father…and that’s only part of what he was.

But I’d rather talk about his music, if you don’t mind, because that’s what I understand the most.

Like most musicians, I was aware of David Bowie’s life and career.  His songs were different, in a way that’s hard to describe but easy to understand.

Somehow, in every song David Bowie ever wrote, he transmitted depth. He had it. And he could express it, in a way that seemed to get to the heart of the matter — a way that few other musicians, no matter how gifted, could do.

Those are rare qualities, even in a creative person. And other creative people tend to celebrate that, whenever we find it, even if the person in question is doing something that’s quite a bit different than themselves.

Much has been said about David Bowie’s image, which was reinvented every few years. Much has been said about Bowie’s gift of self-promotion — though, granted, most of that was said long before he passed away.

(Mind, being able to promote yourself isn’t a bad thing. It actually is a very good thing, especially in today’s day and age where the media has fractured and it’s hard to get anyone to pay attention to anything you’re doing. But I digress.)

Little is being said about David Bowie’s true gift, which was depth of feeling. Or of his secondary gift, which was of perspective.

And I wish more was, because that would be much truer to David Bowie’s life and career.

But depth is hard to talk about. Perspective is even harder.

It’s much easier to talk about David Bowie, the artist. Or David Bowie, the self-promoter and showman. Or David Bowie, the philanthropist — though, granted, this last is also getting very short shrift at the moment.

What I want to discuss is elusive, but is at the heart of what art actually is.

The way you see something, the way you express something, is deeply personal. Very few of us can express something in a way nearly everyone can understand at the same time — though in different ways.

David Bowie had that gift of universality, along with depth and perspective. And it’s those three things that are being overlooked in the mountain of tributes that David Bowie’s family is rightfully receiving at the moment.

I mourn that David Bowie has passed from this Earth. But I’m glad he was here, and shared his art with us.

 

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Written by Barb Caffrey

January 11, 2016 at 4:53 pm

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