I had something else to write last night, but when I learned the news I just couldn’t do it. David Bowie dying seems so strange. He was a figment of pure fantasy, something other, something more than human; if he was human at all. If he could die then everything is truly on the table.
I don’t want to babble out a eulogy that will just join the thousands being ejaculated onto the internet by fans. Those that knew him well write more tenderly than I can manage, and in pushing vanity by scribbling thoughts of grief I may fall into the trap I have already seen collect others. That is the tribute being more about the writer than the subject. Kanye West has said that Bowie was one of his biggest influences. Instead of nesting like a parasite in the legacy of the truly great — like Bowie’s spirit should be pleased that he affected the mind of the omnipotent West — Kanye should look up the word iconoclasm and apply it to himself.
Bowie created characters that wowed, then slew them with ruthless efficiency. I was glad to see an exhibition of his costumes, memorabilia, and music at the Melbourne art gallery last year, and it was fascinating to track the progression of his art. Bowie as artist is how I prefer to define him. The legendary stage performances of the 1970s and 1980s were explorations of isolation, identity, paranoia, passion, the themes which never really changed, but were constantly looked at from another angle; through another prism. He largely left live performance in the 1990s and 2000s, saying in an interview that he didn’t really like it. It was always an exploration, a field he tended and harvested until it was barren and he moved on. Bowie the stage performer was just another character to kill.
There had been rumours over the last 18 months that Bowie was not well, and he had been reclusive in the last decade. Every now and then he would flash out from the shadows, like he did in Christopher Nolan’s The Prestige in 2006, or in music in 2013, and just a few days ago with Blackstar, his final album. He had been working hard on it while he had cancer, and his producer said it was his final gift to mark the end of his life. A true artist, he turned his final months into another exploration of the ultimate isolation.
I will take some time to listen to the album and quietly ponder the life of David Bowie. With so many people saying they love him very much, I’m sure he knows. But now his circuits dead, there’s something wrong. This week life itself is blue, and there’s nothing we can do.