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Monday, January 11, 2016

Five Farewells to Our Thin White Duke

Innumerable tributes will pore forth today for David Bowie, who passed away yesterday from cancer, just two days after his 69th birthday and the release of his final album, Blackstar. That's appropriate, because Bowie's influence as a musician and a performer was as extensive, as protean, as wildly diverse and interpretive, as anyone's. Probably only Bob Dylan, among all modern pop, rock, and folk pioneers still living, could compare with the man's groundbreaking range. So in the midst of the oncoming flood of words, remember this tribute from Will Gompertz:

David Bowie was the Picasso of pop. He was an innovative, visionary, restless artist: the ultimate ever-changing postmodernist. Along with the Beatles, Stones and Elvis Presley, Bowie defined what pop music could and should be. He brought art to the pop party, infusing his music and performances with the avant-garde ideas of Merce Cunningham, John Cage and Andy Warhol.

He turned pop in a new direction in 1972 with the introduction of his alter ego Ziggy Stardust. Glam rock was the starting point, but Ziggy was much more than an eyeliner-wearing maverick: he was a truly theatrical character that at once harked backed to pre-War European theatre while anticipating 1980s androgyny and today's discussions around a transgender spectrum.

He was a great singer, songwriter, performer, actor, producer and collaborator. But beyond all that, at the very heart of the matter, David Bowie was quite simply--quite extraordinarily--cool.

Here, in memoriam, are five slices of the man that come to my mind this morning.

Appropriately enough, let's start with 1971's "Changes":

And follow it up immediately with Bowie, who was so often treated as some kind of the theatrical alien, owning his own reputation with 1971's "Life on Mars":

But Bowie would only allow his audiences to stick with an image of him as long as he wanted them to; when it came time to bury the 1970s, he did, definitively, in "Ashes to Ashes":

In the 1980s David Bowie re-made himself into a fashion and acting icon--but predictably, he's already preceded the meta-commentary on his own transformation with "Fashion":

Thirty years on from what many considered his peak, did Bowie still know how to rock? Oh yeah. Let's end with a holiday he almost lived to see a 70th time, "Valentine's Day":

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