I don’t know about you, but I’ve been feeling the absence of David Bowie all day. Anyone that’s heard his music surely has too. I’d heard him on the radio plenty of times when I was younger, but didn’t really register who he was until my first girlfriend showed me the movie Labyrinth.
My first thought…? Who is this freak dancing with puppets?
Then I really listened to more of his work while I painted in art school and as his songs began to take over my iPod Shuffle I began to realize he wasn’t a freak. He was the freak. David Bowie was the brave, uncompromising eccentric of the 80’s who somehow brought us onboard his own freak-train with a purity and a confidence that made it seem effortless. He did what he did and if you liked it, great. And if you didn’t? That was great too.
He was someone that didn’t fear criticizing his own industry:
Or his own adopted country:
His music could make a movie:
He came out of semi-retirement and delivered this powerful live collaboration with Arcade Fire for charity:
…and made this modern masterpiece with the great James Murphy.
He was thoughtful enough to gave his fans a final tribute:
And in his last music video he confronted his own mortality for all of us to see:
There’s a reason the loss of such an artist so widely resonates. Art unites us. And that’s not just a sentimental platitude or a tired cliche to be taken lightly.
Music in particular, whether someone likes a song or not, still activates and stimulates the entire human brain, including for coma patients. Even the brains of the deaf can register vibrational patterns in the same area where music is processed. Think about that. This trait interestingly does not trigger for other animals. It is uniquely human because rhythm, the ability to anticipate a beat, is too complex for other species to process. Music, art… is quite literally the single most over-riding element that binds us together.
To quote musician Daniel Bernard Roumain:
“You know when someone says that a piece of music ‘touched me’ or ‘moved me,’ it’s very literal. The sound of my voice enters your ear canal and it’s moving your eardrum. That’s a very intimate act. I am very literally touching you, and when you speak to me, you are literally touching me.”