Monday, January 11, 2016

David Bowie, 1947-2016

Well, today has been given over to feeling sad about the passing of David Bowie. 

Several friends are crying this morning.  My daughters are bummed out as well, whereas they are indifferent to a lot of classic rock era figures.  My sense is that LGBT kids and their allies still look to Bowie as a pioneer in crossing and blurring gender lines.

My late uncle Palmer was closer to a big brother to me than a father figure, being nine years younger than my mom, his sister. Palmer had a good album collection when I was a kid, and he used to give me listening advice.  When I was 10 or so, Palmer told me the king of rock music was David Bowie.  I took this as solid-gold gospel truth!  In later years Palmer’s advice was not always so good, but in 1974 or ’75, he was right on target.  His favorite Bowie album was Ziggy Stardust, and that remains the one I know best. 

Let’s Dance was featured in the soundtrack of my college days.  My friend Will and I saw Bowie in concert at the Scope, Norfolk, VA, on the Serious Moonlight tour in August 1983.  This was probably the most straightforward play-the-hits tour he ever did.  Serious fans would say that was not Bowie’s creative peak, but if you could only see him once in your life, that might have been a good time.  He and that band (I can hear Bowie bellowing the name CAHLOS ALOMAH) were utter pros. 

He had just released an album which by all accounts is very good.  I assumed he was in top form.  He really kept a lid on the news of his cancer, so everybody is shocked.  Actually, it’s more than that: He was so vital and so protean, it’s shocking to learn that he was mortal.

Not too long after I started working here at the seminary, folks in my office learned we would be entertaining a guest for several days -- a bishop from the Church of Norway.   (He was studying the likely fallout if the C of N was disestablished.)  In my mind's eye, a bishop of Norway was a stern creature, someone like Gandalf, tall, unsmiling, white haired and about a thousand years old.  When Harald turned up, he was this sprite of a guy, a little older than I, with modish long hair, a black denim jacket, and a hoop earring in each ear.  He was smart, funny, utterly charming, and made me feel about 200% cooler in his presence.  He was a delight, and the way I summed him up to people was: "He reminds me of David Bowie!"

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