Most people’s reactions to the phenomenon of David Bowie generally fall under one of the following categories:
1)Think of him primarily as an 80’s icon when they think of him at all.
2)Liked Ziggy Stardust, Space Oddity and maybe a couple of other things, but generally think of him as at best an aper of lesser known but more talented artists, and at worst a flat out rock and roll plagiarist.
3)Then there are those of us who think the man’s a genius.
Allow me to speak on behalf of the group with which I align myself, if you’ll be so kind.
Those who don’t know much about the man’s music are sorely deprived. Those who criticize it for being derivative are missing the point.
Bowie is not so much a great musician as he is an expert stylist. In a world of painters, he’s a collage artist. The man soaks up influences like a sponge, polishes and rearranges them and makes them his own.
Put another way, Bowie is the musical equivalent of your slightly well off, intellectual friend or neighbor who’s always just read the most thought provoking novel or seen the latest indie film and wants to invite you over to eat sushi and listen to the new Radiohead album on their new surround sound system. And lyrically, the man is from a planet where everyone speaks in abstract impressionist poetry with philosphical underpinnings and occasional drug use. Sometimes they’re a mite obtuse, but his lyrics always make you stop and ponder a bit, should you take the time to properly listen to them. And occasionally they belie a rich and complex dry wit. Sarcasm that rivals Elvis Costello at his best.
And sure, one might argue there’s more raw talent to be found in an Iggy Pop or a Lou Reed, but Bowie has more poise and class and genius at self presentation than either of those two have in their little fingers, plus where would they be without the man? Certainly not on major record labels well into their fifties!
And if all of that fails to convince you, then just look at the man. He’s fucking hot! Still! After all these years! Look at Rod Stewart and Mick Jagger, for example, and then look at Bowie. Clearly there’s some sort of pact with Satan or Portrait of Dorian Gray in the closet or something because Bowie’s enduring hotness truly defies the laws of physics. Then again, he’s half Irish and you know about those Irish anti-aging genes. I for one have always been singularly partial to them 😉