Monday, January 11, 2016

David Bowie 1947-2016: A Starman In His Own Words


-By Noah

“I’m not a prophet or a stone aged man, just a mortal with potential of a superman. I’m living on.” –David Bowie

I only met David Bowie twice, but both times, I was struck and pleased by how gracious and normal he was. He was obviously very bright and very secure in his own skin. I hesitate to use the phrase, but he really was down to earth.

When I got up this morning, my wife gave me the sad news that Bowie had died. Not surprisingly, The Guardian has the best coverage I have found so far.

This is a very tough one for me. It’s there with John Lennon and Joe Strummer. David Bowie was a man who looked at things from a different angle and that’s something I will always gravitate to. I tried to think about what I could write that would convey what was special about David Bowie without it being the same stuff that is being well-covered by everyone else. I was at a loss.

So, rather than give the usual catalog of information about David Bowie’s hits, his films, his changing personas, his well-known impact on fashion, and his wide variety of artistic endeavors, I decided to get to the core. To me, the best way to tell people about David Bowie is to give them his own words. The quotes that follow are from interviews and from his songs.

“If it works, it’s out of date.”

“Tomorrow belongs to those who can hear it coming.”

“On the other hand, what I like my music to do is awaken the ghosts inside of me. Not the demons, you understand, but the ghosts.”

“Religion is for people who are afraid of going to hell, spirituality is for those who’ve been there.”

“It’s always time to question what has become standard and established.”

“I’m and instant star, just add water.”

“Turn and face the strange.”

“I can ask for cigarettes in every language.”

“Speak in extremes, it’ll save you time.”

“There’s a terror in knowing what the world is about.”

“All art is unstable. Its meaning is not necessarily that implied by the author. There is no authoritative active voice. There are only multiple readings.”

“You would think that being a rock star being married to a super-model would be one of the greatest things in the world. It is.”

“People are so fucking dumb. Nobody reads anymore, nobody goes out and looks and explores the society and culture they were brought up in. People have attention spans of five seconds and as much depth as a glass of water.”

“… And these children that you spit on as they try to change their worlds are immune to your consultations. They’re quite aware of what they are going through...”

“We can be ‘heroes’ just for one day.”

“The greatest thing you will ever learn is to love and be loved in return.”

David Bowie leaves us with his art, which will continue to inspire and influence others. He leaves us with memories, too. I will never forget catching him in a brilliant stage performance of Bernard Pomerance’s “The Elephant Man” in Denver back in 1980. I remember so much detail about the day I bought The Rise And Fall Of Ziggy Stardust And The Spiders From Mars. It is that way with many of his albums. He’s left us too young at 69, but, to me, if he had died at a 100, it would be too soon.

There’s also an additional and very important impact David Bowie had on our society. It’s this: Back around 1972, more and more people of my age were coming out of the closet. Through his art, his performances, and his interviews, he managed, quite well, to let both gay people and straight people of my generation that being gay and being open about it was perfectly OK. It’s a lesson some people are still learning. Bowie wasn’t the only public person to step up but, he was a person of public prominence who did and that had a positive effect.

“Glam really did plant seeds for a new identity. I think a lot of kids needed sense of reinvention. Kids learned that however crazy you may think it is, there is a place for what you want to do and who you want to be.”

One last quote: David Bowie on the creative process. Great artists such as Bob Dylan and Keith Richard have often said much the same thing, ie. Sometimes the songs just come out. They are there and somehow, the artist is the medium through which they come.

“Strangely, some songs you really don’t want to write. I didn’t like writing ‘Heathen’. There was something so ominous and final about it. It was early in the morning, the sun was rising and through the windows I could see two deer grazing down below in the field. In the distance a car was driving slowly past the reservoir and these words were just streaming out and there were tears running down my face. But I couldn’t stop, they just flew out. It’s an odd feeling, like something else is guiding you, although forcing your hand is more like it.”

Please note: The many of the quotes used here were originally compiled by



At 6:47 PM, Anonymous Michael Simmons said...

Artistry is one thing. Clear-eyed honesty is another. Bowie had both. And you, dear Noah, do as well. As The Twenty-Worst Century blindly stumbles on, I find myself appreciating those who are capable of either even more.

At 5:33 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

“Speak in extremes, it’ll save you time.”

It's a shame that The Donald Drumpf understands this message without having to think about it.


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