Over a year ago, when the world reeled at the death of glam rock superstar David Bowie, he certainly ‘became the special man’ just like his fictional alter ego, Ziggy Stardust. Hailed as a creative genius, the legacy of his enormous influence on pop music and stagecraft was undeniable and all-pervasive.
Everyone knew Bowie was Bowie, and that was synonymous with brilliance, but the full scale of his impact was released collectively as fans and musicians alike rushed forward to describe his special effect upon them, or relate an encounter which showed his genuine kindness, wit or artistic amazing-ness.
Parents across the world explained to their teenage kids just how big Bowie had been; just how different the charts, concerts, the music industry would be today without him.
The anniversary of his birthday and, two days later, his death from liver cancer, passed quietly this year, marked by loyal fans across social media and several tribute programmes from the BBC.
Their ‘The Last Five Years’ documentary, which tracks his final working years, closes on an old interview that reveals what Bowie really wanted his legacy to be.
“I’d love people to believe,” he says, “That I really had great haircuts.”
Call me uncreative, but I think I’d like to focus on his music for now. The star himself admitted, in an interview in 1989, after the world had been wowed by the likes of Hunky Dory, Ziggy Stardust, Diamond Dogs, Young Americans and Scary Monsters, that he’d ‘made some fabulous albums’. Being ‘honest’, he acknowledged that he ‘love[d] it’, he ‘love[d his] stuff’, before going on to describe his anger when he listened to stuff that he hadn’t ‘done [his] utmost on’.
Being born some twenty years after Bowie’s peak, I haven’t even come close to appreciating the full scope of his work. I’m sure some hard-core fans envy the opportunity which young fans have to discover his music for the first time and fall head over heels in love with his eccentricity, diversity and energy.
And I like to think that as Bowie looks down from the ‘heaven’ which he notes in ‘Lazarus’, track 3 on his twenty-fifth and final studio album, and watches us belt out the lyrics of ‘Ziggy Stardust’ or ‘All the Young Dudes’, he chuckles with Mick Ronson at our shockingly poor electric guitar playing.
In his stunningly powerful crescendo of a song, ‘Time’, he sings:
‘Perhaps you’re smiling now,
Smiling through this darkness.’
Well, I really hope he is smiling with quiet pride at the amazing legacy which he has gifted to posterity.