News broke yesterday of the death of cultural icon David Bowie – musician, actor, artist. I’m not quite sure how I feel about it. Sad of course, especially for his family and friends. I have to admit, though, that I was never a huge fan of his however, there are definitely some songs that bring back memories of my youth. And naturally I remember his wonderfully anti-conventional stage presence. If my parents thought the Beatles and the Rolling Stones were going to cause the youth of the world to go to hell, imagine what they thought of David Bowie!
Each time we lose a legendary artist like Bowie, I feel that much closer to the loss of an era, my era. Maybe it’s just because of my age that I’ve started to recognize more of the celebrated people passing these days. Kind of makes you stop and think, doesn’t it.
In my research for this blog post, I stumbled upon a couple of interesting things about David Bowie, the artist, that made me wish I had paid closer attention to him and his career. I am fascinated with how people go about being creative; their methods, techniques, and philosophies about living a creative life. Bowie had a very interesting way of creating lyrics for his songs. He called his method cut-ups and he used it to stimulate his imagination and develop new ideas. He would take written phrases, lines of his own poems, articles from the newspaper, snippets from other people’s books, and cut them up line by line then rearrange them and see what kinds of things the new associations ignited in his imagination.
I also ran across an interview that so resonated with my own creative journey. In 1998, Charlie Rose spoke with Bowie about his art. In it, Bowie pondered the thought that to be an artist may be a sign of some kind of social dysfunction. Being an artist, to Bowie, was not necessarily an enjoyable way to spend his time, yet he felt compelled to express himself and to create, almost up until the moment of his death.
It is moments like these that cause regret to well up inside me, for the creativity that I have ignored or suppressed all of my life. But it is also the honesty of artists like David Bowie, that touches a chord in my soul and starts a vibrating hum in my imagination. I can’t not be creative or express myself, no matter how difficult the journey is. Thank you David Bowie for your artistry, for your audacity, for your music, for your vision. Rest in peace.
A few can touch the magic string,
and noisy fame is proud to win them:
Alas for those that never sing,
but die with all their music in them! ~Oliver Wendell Holmes, Sr.