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  Rock chameleon David Bowie lives on through his music

Rock chameleon David Bowie lives on through his music

Published : Jan 18, 2016, 5:27 am IST
Updated : Jan 18, 2016, 5:27 am IST

While most eulogies would have been written about singer-songwriter David Bowie by now, this is a good time to analyse the impact of social media on hearing of his unfortunate demise as well as my ver

David Bowie and Roger Waters Bowie performed four songs at Live Aid;
 David Bowie and Roger Waters Bowie performed four songs at Live Aid;

While most eulogies would have been written about singer-songwriter David Bowie by now, this is a good time to analyse the impact of social media on hearing of his unfortunate demise as well as my very own reminisces of this brilliant artiste.

David Bowie scored high on the ‘Billboard + Twitter Realtime Trending 140’ chart on the day following news of his death at age 69 as the title-track from Bowie’s latest album, Blackstar — released two days prior to his demise — reached no.1. The rock legend originally debuted Blackstar, the song, in November 2015, which was used as the theme for the European television series, The Last Panthers.

Blackstar — the album — was released on the icon’s birthday and, as this column is being written, there are strong indications that the album may just become Bowie’s first no.1 in the U.S., although the same slot in the U.K. is virtually assured.

My own personal memories of this musical chameleon — I call him so because of his ever-changing avatars — was listening to his The Man Who Sold The World though, first time around, it was not by him, but by a singer known as Lulu, popular for the 1967 smash, To Sir, With Love. Lulu’s rendition appeared on a multi-track single —known as an EP then — that I purchased in 1974, during school days, which also contained Terry Jack’s version of Seasons In The Sun and the Rubettes’ Sugar Baby Love.

Bowie produced the Lulu recording of The Man Who Sold The World and also contributed guitar, saxophone, and backing vocals, with the song climbing to no.5 on the U.K. singles chart in February 1974. A live rendition of the song was recorded by Nirvana in 1993 during their MTV Unplugged appearance.

A more ‘direct’ connect with Bowie occurred on July 13, 1985 when Doordarshan stunned international music listeners by deciding to broadcast Live Aid, live and, among the multi-artistes featured, Bowie was prominent by running through four songs at London’s Wembley Stadium, almost at midnight India time if I remember correctly, clothed to perfection, as always, in a light grey suit.

As his band commenced “TVC-15” — from 1976’s Station To Station album — Bowie went to the front of the stage, accepted the crowd response, and acknowledged a flag adorned with the lightning bolt image of Aladdin Sane, Bowie sixth album released in 1973.

The unmistakeable guitar riff of Rebel Rebel — from 1974’s Diamond Dogs — appeared next, followed by the crowd’s immediate roar of recognition at the intro to Modern Love — from Bowie’s 1983 Let’s Dance album — a song inspired by rock ‘n’ roller Little Richard. A hush would eventually fall over the massive crowd as the intro to Heroes commenced, wherein Bowie took the liberty of introducing his band, subsequently, adding: “I am forever in their debt.”

He went on to dedicate Heroes — the title track to Bowie’s 1977 album – “To my son, to all our children, and to the children of the world” and, with that, the crowd fell quiet for one of Bowie’s greatest hits (We can be heroes, just for one day), a song co-written with Brian Eno, and revived in 1998 on the soundtrack of Godzilla by The Wallflowers, featuring Bob Dylan’s son, Jakob.

Not only that but, although most people are not aware, there is also a connect between Bowie and, one of my favourite bands, Pink Floyd. Although Bowie did not appear on Roger Waters’ ‘The Wall’ tour covering 2010-13 — which is brilliantly captured and documented on a DVD recently released by Reliance Entertainment —Bowie did perform on one of the original album’s prime cuts, Comfortably Numb (ranked in Rolling Stone magazine’s ‘500 Greatest Songs Of All Time’), along with Waters’ former Pink Floyd partner, David Gilmour, at London’s Royal Albert Hall on May 29, 2006, as also on another Pink Floyd selection, Arnold Layne.

Nevertheless, Bowie and Waters did land up on the same platform some decades earlier, in 1986, when they ‘appeared’ on the soundtrack of When The Wind Blows — which contained music by Waters — although the keyboard-driven title song was composed by Bowie.

While there really is so much to write on David Bowie and even more once you discover his multifarious musical avatars, suffice to say that there are not many globally popular artistes who can boast of releasing 9 live albums, 25 studio albums, and 46 compilations, having combined sales upwards of 140 million units. R.I.P., David Bowie, you are already missed!

The writer has been part of the media and entertainment business for over 23 years. He still continues to pursue his hobby, and earns an income out of it.