Did any of us truly know David Bowie? Or, with every new musical delivery were we still trying to figure him out as he took us, over the golden years, to one musical oddity and then another and then another after that? Few would argue that Bowie’s artistry was enhanced by his mystique and unwillingness to be put into a categorical box. Always experimental. Always ahead of his time. It’s what made him special and unique and us forever curious and intrigued.
Bowie was an innovator and an amazingly adaptable chameleon. In the world of branding the old adage: Do what you do best and stick to it could never apply. Born David Jones, he changed his name early to avoid confusion with then superstar Davey Jones of The Monkees. He channeled 60’s psychedelics with his first and perhaps greatest hit ever, “Space Oddity,” (this blog’s headline comes from this song’s lyrics) before embracing the 70s Studio 54 scene with androgyny and “Fame.” “Fashion” and “Ashes to Ashes” would continue in the club vein with the latter updating us on the trials of Major Tom, complete with an experimental video two years before the MTV astronaut first made an appearance. And how can anyone forget his rendition of “Little Drummer Boy” in a duet with Bing Crosby on a holiday TV special. Bing Crosby? With Bowie, it made perfect sense to go along with those perfect harmonies.
Image was everything in the 80s and Music Television and other programming like “Miami Vice” (conceived by creator Michael Mann as “MTV cops”) saw Bowie once again fitting right in. From Ziggy Stardust came a more polished, dapper musician and another sound direction. “Let’s Dance” evoked big band while “Blue Jean” borrowed from R&B with horn accents equal parts Earth Wind & Fire and Sly & The Family Stone. The next moment, he was teaming with fellow art rockers Queen (“Under Pressure”), and the next with jazz master Pat Metheny for movie music (the haunting “This is Not America). And radio airplay never came easier.
It is quite fitting that Bowie remained true to his eclectic roots for this 25th and latest LP, “Blackstar” which, Andy Greene reports in his November 23rd review in Rolling Stone, was designed to be unconventional, different, “creating a fusion sound that can’t be pinned to any one genre.” For David Bowie, turning 69 on the date of the album’s release before succumbing to liver cancer just days later, it really was all about changes through a consistently amazing musical ride.