I just got the news this morning that David Bowie has joined the Ancestors. His 69th birthday was just a few days ago, and I did think it was odd that NPR (which I had on my car radio as I was running errands) was talking about him so much on his birthday. Now I realize that they may have known what I didn’t know at the time, that he was terminally ill and probably wouldn’t make it to his 70th birthday. I had no idea he was sick. I guess I just assumed he’d keep on living like Mick Jagger. (Mick Jagger is immortal, right?)
I’ve never been a rabid David Bowie fan, but I have always had a lot of respect for him, and really like several of his songs (and I mean listen to them over and over again and never get tired of them like). I am a rabid Beatles and Queen fan, and consider Bowie to be just as important in music history. As far as music goes, I’ve always felt like I was born 30 years too late. I think rock music reached its peak in the 1960’s and 1970’s and will never be that good again.
John Lennon died a month before I was born, and Freddie Mercury died when I was just a little bit too young to care who he was, so I hope David Bowie doesn’t mind me paying tribute to them along with him today. (I don’t think he would. He was friends with both of them.)
I discovered the Beatles when I was 14 and The Beatles Anthology documentary was broadcast on TV. I watched it because I had heard a few Beatles songs on the local Oldies station, so I was a little curious, and there just wasn’t much else on TV at that time. I think I completely fell in love with them about 15 or 20 minutes in. I had never seen footage of them performing before, and something just clicked when I did.
I became obsessed with the Beatles, and soon branched out into other music of that era, like the Rolling Stones, Led Zeppelin, the Who, Queen, and yes, David Bowie. The Beatles were always my favorite though, and John Lennon became a personal hero of mine in my teenage years. Listening to the Beatles now always gives me a warm feeling. They were a big source of comfort during a hard time in my life.
When George Harrison died in 2001 I felt grief almost like someone I knew personally had died. He was the least well-known Beatle, but All Things Must Pass is one of the greatest albums, which is impressive given that it’s a triple album. You’d think it would be full of filler, but it’s not. A lot of it is songs he wrote while he was in the Beatles, but didn’t get on the Beatles albums because he was overshadowed by the other two geniuses in the group.
After that he didn’t put out many more solo albums, but still had some great songs. My dad got Cloud Nine when it came out. I was a little kid at the time and loved it when he’d play it, but I didn’t connect George and the Beatles until later. George Harrison also helped introduce me to the idea that there were more spiritual options out there besides either Christianity or atheism.
I’ve always had a little trouble deciding which rock band was my second favorite after the Beatles, but Queen was always among those competing for that spot. (I’m also sure they wouldn’t be insulted by me saying they were second to the Beatles. They were huge Beatles fans too, so they’d probably agree.)
I can only imagine what would have happened if Freddie Mercury hadn’t died when he did. I could have gone and seen them live. Oh, that would have been great. Any lists of greatest rock frontmen that don’t include Freddie at the top are completely wrong. Yes, Mick Jagger, Robert Plant, and Roger Daltry are all great, but none could hold a candle to Freddie.
So now David Bowie has joined that elite pantheon of Mighty Dead. You know, now that I think of it, maybe part of the reason I never got as much into David Bowie is just because I don’t know where to start. He was around for so long, putting out hits through several decades. He was like three or four artists in one. Collecting the complete albums of the Beatles, Queen, and Led Zeppelin when I was a teen wasn’t that hard to do, but David Bowie just had so much stuff. So all I have is his first Greatest Hits album. I know, that’s pretty lame.
I suppose in the coming days there will be a lot of tributes coming out, and some of them will talk about what his best albums were. Maybe that will help me decide where I need to start adding to my collection.