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.