Patterico's Pontifications


David Bowie, RIP

Filed under: Music — Patterico @ 12:16 am

Well, this is a shock.

David Bowie, the infinitely changeable, fiercely forward-looking songwriter who taught generations of musicians about the power of drama, images and personae, died Sunday, two days after his 69th birthday, according to his publicist.

Mr. Bowie’s death was reported in posts on Facebook and Twitter, and confirmed by the publicist, Steve Martin, on Monday morning.

“David Bowie died peacefully today surrounded by his family after a courageous 18-month battle with cancer,” according to a statement on Mr. Bowie’s social media accounts.

More than 10 years ago, I described David Bowie as “one of my all-time favorite performers.” He is a “musicians’ musician” — and I know this because the musicians I like always want to cover his stuff. He had a reputation as this sort of non-serious “glam” artist, but he was a hell of a songwriter and had a hell of a voice.

One of the first times I went out with Christi — at a time when I think we were friends, and not “dating” — I invited her into the bedroom of my one-bedroom apartment (where the stereo was!) and dimmed the lights while I put on “Sweet Thing” from the “Diamond Dogs” album. I told her I wanted her to hear the range in the singer’s voice, beginning with a low gravelly sound to a controlled soprano wail.

She told me later that she thought I was trying to make a move on her. Dimmed lights, sitting together on the bed, playing music . . . yeah, I can see why she thought that. But I just wanted her not to have any visual distractions — so she could concentrate on how great David Bowie’s voice was.

He was 69 years old. It’s a horrible loss for music.

UPDATE: If I’m going to talk up “Sweet Thing” then I should let you listen to it, shouldn’t I?

Give this 90 seconds. You’ll hear Bowie’s full vocal range in a way no other song of his quite displays.

31 Responses to “David Bowie, RIP”

  1. Good night.

    Patterico (86c8ed)

  2. Some years back (maybe 15 or so) he did a really awesome appearance on a radio show with his band. They were about to embark upon a big tour and had spent a couple of months rehearsing. The radio host invited callers to call in and say hello to David, and then request whatever songs they wanted to hear. At that point I really only new Bowie as a musician — I had never really paid any attention to him as a person — but I was struck by two things about the guy. First, he was unfailing polite and generally attentive to the fans who called in. They would relate to him stories about how influential and important his music had been to them and he seemed genuinely moved and humbled by what he was hearing. Second, some of his more rabid fans requested some pretty esoteric songs from his back catalog, and for most of them Bowie and his band made a game attempt to play the requests. If I recall, there were maybe only one or two songs where he just flat out said they had no idea of where to begin, and in those cases he always invited them to choose another song. I came away from that show thinking that David Bowie was probably a pretty good dude, and I never had any reason to change my opinion in the years that followed.

    JVW (d60453)

  3. his duet with bing crosby is still my favorite christmas song ever

    happyfeet (831175)

  4. May he rest in peace. I was never a fan, but I liked the Let’s Dance album. I was a reactionary ’50s rock and roller in my teens and an even more reactionary scorner of the androgynous pop genres as I got older. I have the opposite story from Patterico; when I was dating the future mother of my child, she played Ziggy Stardust for me. She is a fan.

    nk (dbc370)

  5. Your sentiments are seconded to infinity, sir.

    Icy (981a35)

  6. First heard Hunky Dory at the age of 8 and been a huge fan for almost 40 years.

    My brother in law was a stage hand in Philadelphia and worked on the Glass Spider tour. He always said of all the celebrities he worked with Bowie was hands down the most polite, professional, down-to-earth, friendliest one of them all.
    Devastating loss – listening to Ziggy, Scary Monsters, Man Who Sold the World, and Space Oddity back to back and toasting his memory. RIP Starman. There will never be another like you.

    Michael Jack Klompus Schmidt (4758e4)

  7. Seems David Bowie lent assistance in a sizable portion of PP readership finding a girl.
    So I present this photo as tribute to the man.

    papertiger (c2d6da)

  8. rip
    Always thought of him as an entertainer, not so much as a musician.

    mg (31009b)

  9. Remaining a thorough enigma thru the decades. Unlike Morrison, Joplin, Hendrix, et alia.

    Recently saw for the first time a duet with Bing Crosby singing “Drummer Boy” while he sang something praying for peace for the children I didn’t recall hearing before.

    Can you imagine anyone else doing so?

    DNF (755a85)

  10. Just a few days ago, I was so happy to hear Bowie’s voice on the title song to his new album Blackstar. I’ve read many reviews on the innovative mix of jazz and other genres on his new album, and all of it is true…but the truth is that just as one longs to hear the voice of an old friend, I was just so happy to hear Bowie crooning again. (“Something happened the day he died..”)

    And it turns out that was his last gift.

    Brian (9f8ec4)

  11. There’s more sad news for music lovers everywhere today, as Justin Bieber was found alive in his hotel room

    Chuck Bartowski (11fb31)

  12. I saw him perform live 3 times… March 10, 1973 in Long Beach (Ziggy & Aladdin Sane… I remember the exact date because the show had such an effect on me and because that was the day I got my first traffic ticket), in September of ’74 (Diamond Dogs) at the Anaheim Convention Center and in February of 1976 – Station to Station… at the Fabulous Forum in single wood, just a few weeks after getting married. Each show was an experience and outstanding in its own way. I regret not having seen his shows after that.

    Over this last year, I had been listening to his music and watching any old footage I could find on YouTube more than any other artist(s)… so much so that my wife had asked, “hey… what’s the deal?”.

    He’d always said he didn’t believe in God, I guess he’s found out by now. A true original, there’ll never be another like him. So many memories… faces, times and places I will always associate with him and his music. RIP.

    Colonel Haiku (0b084b)

  13. Make that Inglewood…

    Colonel Haiku (0b084b)

  14. The guy just about invented “outrageous”.

    Colonel Haiku (0b084b)

  15. David Bowie was a great musician. He also did some movie acting and, notably for me, provided the voice of the “Lord Royal Highness,” or “LRH”. A great dig at L.Ron Hubbard in the episode “Atlantis Squarepantis.

    felipe (b5e0f4)

  16. UPDATE: If I’m going to talk up “Sweet Thing” then I should let you listen to it, shouldn’t I?

    Give this 90 seconds. You’ll hear Bowie’s full vocal range in a way no other song of his quite displays.

    Patterico (86c8ed)

  17. Two of my faves that spanned 20 years, second one’s live… Bowie always had a top notch band from ’75 thru his last tours and recordings…

    Sent from my iPhone

    Colonel Haiku (0b084b)

  18. Just a few weeks ago at Christmastime, I watched that stunning duet with Bing Crosby.

    I am not familiar with very much of David Bowie’s work other than a few songs that are radio staples, but I always liked “Young Americans” and the duet with Queen, called “Under Pressure.”

    Cruz Supporter (102c9a)

  19. Born David Jones but that name was already taken by another performer who left us too soon.

    Gazzer (3b0a0a)

  20. I watched the video for Lazarus and posted it to my site as well.

    It was… painful to watch. It actually looked exploitative. I couldn’t bring myself to watch Dark Star.

    RIP Bowie.

    Patrick in Michigan (6def51)

  21. I saw his exhibit at the Chicago Museum of Contemporary Art a year or two ago. I can’t say I cared much for his music but his sense of modern art as it applied to stage performances was pretty brilliant.

    CrustyB (69f730)

  22. He declined the royal honor of Commander of the Order of the British Empire (CBE) in 2000, and turned down a knighthood in 2003.[246] Bowie explained his reluctance, saying: “I would never have any intention of accepting anything like that. I seriously don’t know what it’s for. It’s not what I spent my life working for.”

    He sounds just like umm … an American. He had an American’s sensibility towards the trappings of royalty.

    papertiger (c2d6da)

  23. I’ve read this blog for years because of our shared worldview.

    Today I discovered that we also agree that the beginning of Sweet Thing is perhaps the most incredible display of vocal range in the history of rock.

    The guitar at the end of Candidate is also awesome.

    fuistemon (f0d6ab)

  24. Good night, sweet prince, and flocks of angels sing thee to thy rest.

    But they probably won’t sing anywhere near as you will.

    Rest in peace, David.

    I met him once, talked with him for a few hours, (about all sorts of things) and he was erudite, charming, and completely polished — in the best way. He knew he was famous, so he didn’t condescend and act like he wasn’t, but he wore his celebrity in a very bright and thoughtful way. He didn’t have to act like he was a good guy, he WAS a good guy. And very, very smart.

    Also, his bit with Ricky Gervais on “Extras” remains one of the funniest things I’ve seen in years.

    walter grumpius (c9dd02)

  25. steve perry has good range too

    or is he dead too

    i don’t get all the memos

    happyfeet (831175)

  26. Happy, not only is Steve Perry not dead, but he is back in the studio working on an album.

    Rorschach (8ddea0)

  27. :)

    thank you that’s something to look forward to

    happyfeet (831175)

  28. I understand it was Liver Cancer that finally got Bowie. Which makes one wonder if it was a consequence of Hep. C.

    Rorschach (8ddea0)

  29. Wow… liver cancer was the first thing that I thought of. That often seems to be what happens years and years after hard drug abuse and he was a heavy user for years before getting clean.

    Colonel Haiku (ac902e)

  30. and Steve Perry is lucky he sings better than he plays softball… man that guy throws like a girlie-girl.

    Colonel Haiku (ac902e)

  31. This – with Gervais and Bowie – is hilarious, lol funny:

    Colonel Haiku (b5bc8f)

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