The Thin White Duke is at peace. David Bowie is dead. He was here for 69 years, and in that time explored what it means to be an ever-evolving artist and human. Assuming identities, making beautiful, meaningful music and drama, acting … he did all of that, and more, and he did it well, in a manner that was at once elegant and nonchalant.
He was cool, intellectual, sexy, and, despite selling millions and millions of albums, an outsider, observing the fears and anxieties and commenting on them in ways that made us think and sing and dance. Unlike the average star or personality, whose every tic and action is now transmitted instantly to the masses via Twitter or any number of other social media platforms, Bowie expressed himself through his art. He was an enigma, so much so that relatively few people even knew he was struggling with cancer (he had been for the past 18 months).
His final album, Blackstar, was released on January 8, the day he turned 69. He passed away two days later. There are perhaps other recordings yet to see the light of day, but I am viewing Blackstar as his farewell letter, his way of saying goodbye to everything and everyone, including himself and his myriad identities. He now belongs to the ages.
“My entire career, I’ve only really worked with the same subject matter,” Bowie once said. “The trousers may change, but the actual words and subjects I’ve always chosen to write with are things to do with isolation, abandonment, fear and anxiety, all of the high points of one’s life.”
So long, Major Tom. I’ll miss you terribly.