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Op-Ed: David Bowie loses battle with cancer: we look at his career

The passing of David Bowie has ricocheted through the news. Bowie was more than a pop star, he was an artist who continued to reinvent himself, from his first recordings during the 1960s, thorough his ‘70s peak, and to his present day revival.

My first experience of hearing Bowie was perhaps at a time when his creative powers were not quite as strong as they had been (or were to become again.) This was during the “Let’s Dance” period, where Bowie absorbed the synthesizer and other paraphernalia of 1980s New Romantic pop. Nonetheless, the tune was catchy and it enabled my teenage interest in music to gaze back at Bowie’s 70s output.

An important thing about Bowie and his music was his ability to reimagine himself and to change musical styles. Often he did not follow trends, but create them (or at least blend styles or take little known subcultures to the international stage.) The prominent example here is glam rock, through his persona of Ziggy Stardust. The song “Starman” is the greatest example from this era (drawn from the recording The Rise and Fall of Ziggy Stardust and the Spiders from Mars.)

David Bowie was born in Brixton in London, although his formative years were spent around Bromley. As a young man in near-by Beckenham Bowie composed and wrote “Space Oddity” and drew inspiration from the developing psychedelic sounds experimented with by local bands. This was all the more poignant as Beckenham was the town I was born in and where I spent my early childhood years.

David Bowie bei Rock am Ring 1987

David Bowie bei Rock am Ring 1987
Elmar J. Lordemann

Arguably, and to these ears, Bowie’s peak was the trio of albums he made with Brian Eno (the so-called “Berlin Trilogy”). These are three fine recordings and they are worth checking out: Low (1977), Heroes (1977), and Lodger (1979).

Bowie was also an actor, appearing in movies like The Man Who Fell to Earth, Absolute Beginners, and Labyrinth. Bowie’s acting had a charm. It wasn’t as deep or accomplished as his music; but he had a good screen presence, which was suitably stylish and captivating in the right kind of picture.

The period that I didn’t warm to was the early 1990s and the more “industrial” rock sound. This seemed to be a re-tread of earlier rock made by less imaginative artists. This included the band ‘Tin Machine.’

In 2013 Bowie bounced back with the superb album and single The Next Day. The album received no pre-publicity and sold well. By this time Bowie had shyed away from media interviews and the send of mystery helped fuel interest and sales.

Bowie’s last album was the excellent Blackstar. Listening to tracks of this recording this morning it takes on an eerie edge, since Bowie would have known, when he made the album, that he was ill and in the weeks running up to its release that he was dying.

The last track on Blackstar is called “I Can’t Give Everything Away.” In a sense this sums up Bowie: contributing so much to popular music and art, and to audiences around the world, thorough different versions of himself. Yet there would be the core David Bowie, the part that the public would never see, that remained private. Perhaps it is this, the inner Bowie, that his final song refers to?

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Dr. Tim Sandle is Digital Journal's Editor-at-Large for science news. Tim specializes in science, technology, environmental, business, and health journalism. He is additionally a practising microbiologist; and an author. He is also interested in history, politics and current affairs.

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