Bowie’s talent helped to change our world

A champion for the oddball. A hitmaker. A starman. An actor and composer and playwright. Androgynous. Andy Warhol 2.0.

All those descriptions apply to one talented pop cultural icon in the form of David Bowie, who died recently at the age of 69 after a bout with cancer.

He lived a very private life for one so much in the public eye. Indeed, many fans were shocked to find he had been fighting cancer for more than a year.

But his genius was on display.

From seeming to burst on the American scene in with “Space Oddity,” the tale of the British astronaut left stuck in space, a song that was recorded a month to the day before Neil Armstrong and Buzz Aldrin walked on the Moon, to the current play, “Lazarus,” co-written with Tony winner Enda Walsh, Bowie was alive with artistry. “Lazarus” itself is based on the science fiction story “The Man Who Fell to Earth,” and Bowie starred in a 1970s film adaptation.

“Space Oddity,” by the way wasn’t his first single, but it is what many fans go to as a memory of the first time they heard Bowie.

Bowie’s ability to reinvent himself but always a step ahead of pop culture made him a champion for those who are different. Many stories came in the days following his death about people who felt they didn’t fit in anywhere but who were made to feel worthy because of Bowie’s music.

His final album, “Blackstar” hit the market just before his death and has met critical acclaim as yet another deep Bowie work. His producer, however, says while some interpret it as a goodbye song, Bowie had written and made five demo songs in the weeks before his death, indicating he thought he had more time and plenty more art in him.

Bowie privately fought his cancer diagnosis, undergoing chemotherapy throughout 2015 but continuing to work, being a quiet champion for all of those facing the illness, the side effects of chemo and the need to continue to be productive and to feel as if life would go on beyond the day-to-day weight of sickness.

He ranged in music from pop hits to heavy and deep album rock. He spoke to people from the sexually confused to the space junkie to the person who just feels like an alien in a strange land.

And through it all, through changing styles and changing appearances, from starman to androgynous anti-hero to crooner singing what was thought of as an odd Christmas mashup with Bing Crosby in the 1970s (but which has become kind of revered recently), there always at the heart of it was the genius of David Bowie.

Sometimes, life just deals a ton of extra talent into one person, and Bowie was that person for many in the boomer and post-boomer years.

He is missed.


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