For The Love Of Music / David Bowie And The Celebration Of The Individual

Columns For the Love of Music
David Bowie, Iggy Pop,& Lou Reed, Unholy Trinity, 1972 by Mick Rock

On the occasion of the fifth anniversary of his death on January 10th, I am moved to pen this tribute to one of music’s biggest icons of the last fifty years, one whose influence extends beyond genre – the man and artist known as David Bowie.
As a punk rocker in the 1980s, I viewed Bowie as one of my three musical godfathers alongside his fellow proto-punks Iggy Pop and Lou Reed. While Iggy, with his bandmates the Stooges, was busy heralding the sonic call to arms, and Reed, with his naturalistic and sometimes brutally honest storytelling, was busy cataloging the grittiness of New York City street life, Bowie was on a different mission.

His music was distinctly more personal in tone with the implicit message that is was OK to be weird, OK to be different, and OK to be who you are. And while Iggy’s music was infused with a combative swagger, and Reed’s with an urban survival toughness, Bowie’s was imbued with compassion for the individual.
If I were to choose just one song that most represents this ethos it would be one of his more well-known ones, 1971’s “Changes”.

The key lines of this composition, penned by Bowie himself, center around the older generation clashing with the younger generation over the whole notion of change itself as it proclaims:

And these children that you spit on
As they try to change their worlds
Are immune to your consultations
They’re quite aware of what they’re going through
(Turn and face the strange)
Don’t tell them to grow up and out of it
(Turn and face the strange)
Where’s your shame
You’ve left us up to our necks in it

With this song, Bowie defiantly shouts back to the would-be oppressors and resistors to change that it is basic to human nature to want to change things for the better and how dare they try to stop it. Over and over again, in his vast repertoire of songs, much like Walt Whitman did a century earlier with his poems, Bowie championed the intrinsic power of the individual, the undeniable value that we all have as human beings, and the basic truth that we all have something to contribute to society. And that is a musical legacy that all creative individuals and music lovers can identify with and be inspired by, now and forever. Thank you, dear David, thank you.  

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