David Bowie is now a was but will be forever

Look up here, I’m in heaven

David Bowie’s last release before his death, Lazarus, contains many lyrical giveaways as to the master chameleon’s imminent, final transition. Certainly the video leaves little to the imagination.  It’s awful, heart wrenching stuff.  I’m not sure I can bring myself to watch it again.

Yet when the news broke yesterday evening (AEST), the shock was universal but for those in Bowie’s inner sanctum. One had to wait 10 minutes into the ABC’s 7pm news report for a hastily cobbled eulogy.  Similarly, online news services seemed to be caught on the hop.

That Bowie’s dignity and privacy remained intact until the very end said much about the respect he commanded. Despite his flamboyant, gender bending envelope pushing, Bowie was the English gentleman well beyond boorish behaviour and outrageous statements concocted to satiate a desperate need to remain relevant.

His death was no different from his life – a work of Art.
Producer Tony Visconti

The last time I felt such a chill for the loss of a musician, someone I did not know personally, was Freddie Mercury some 25 years ago. Unlike Bowie, the seriousness of Freddie’s condition was known, if not officially, for some time.

I use the term ‘musician’ only for the purposes of brevity.  David Bowie possessed the diverse talents of at least a dozen mere mortals.

All of my life I tried so hard
Doing the best with what I had
Something about me stood apart

Imagining a world without David Bowie entails imagining a world without literally hundreds of tremendous artists he influenced and inspired.  And that in itself was a whopping gift beyond his own incomparable output.

Bowie set the template for artistic longevity.  Yet unlike others who followed the manual, the personas he conceived never seemed contrived – just another extension of David Jones and his infinite imagination.  Underneath the styling was a brilliant capacity for music.  The riffs, the hooks, the melodies and the lyrics have stood the test of time (for he was so far ahead of it).

Appropriately, Bowie took his surname from a type of knife for he scythed through what was fashionable and set the next trend. Just as Bowie’s contemporaries caught up he’d already moved on and left them in his wake.

If the Beatles were music’s Bradman then Bowie was akin to Sachin Tendulkar.

Twenty-seven studio albums, 9 live albums, 46 compilation albums, 111 singles (5 UK number ones), 51 music videos and 3 soundtracks.

Weight of numbers tell a story, but not the journey.   Notwithstanding, 130 million record sales somehow seems remarkably low.  That is compared to other contemporaries who’ve justifiably or otherwise been acclaimed as heroes for more than one day.

In a career that was characterised by several gap years, and latterly gap decades, Bowie enjoyed some incredible creative spurts.  Such as writing, producing and releasing Low, Heroes and (with Iggy Pop) The Idiot and Lust For Life in just 12 months.

Judging today’s artists by those standards is somewhat unfair – Bowie went down so many music avenues and spawned so many imitators, there’s precious little new ground left for others to claim as their own.

Do you remember a guy that’s been
In such an early song
I’ve heard a rumour from Ground Control
Oh no, don’t say it’s true

Like a great percentage of his fans, David Bowie’s career predates me. My first encounter with David Bowie was Ashes to Ashes.  As a young child the song and accompanying video blew my mind.  Still does.  Nevermind I had no clue as to the brilliant lyrical subtext.  Unlike other critics lucky enough to remember his famed 70’s output as it was rapturously received, I also took a lot from Bowie’s 80’s and 90’s recordings.  I love Modern LoveAbsolute BeginnersBlue Jean, Black Tie White Noise, Jump They Say, The Hearts Filthy Lesson and Thursday’s Child.  More recently, from The Next Day, I’d Rather be High is another Bowie masterpiece by my reckoning.

‘Genius’ and ‘legend’ are terms bandied about all too readily these days where fame and celebrity is the end goal and not a by-product of an outstanding body of work.  There’s not much about David Bowie that hasn’t already been said, far more interestingly and insightfully, than by myself.   To illustrate, I’ll conclude by quoting one eloquent twitterer;

‘Dear planet Bowie, please send another one’.


Rest in Peace Ziggy.

About Jeff Dowsing

Washed up former Inside Sport and Sunday Age Sport freelancer. Now just giving my stuff away to good homes. Not to worry, still have my health and day job. Published & unpublished works fester on my blog Write Line Fever.


  1. Good stuff, Jeff. Bowie was one of the few, true originals of the first 40 or so years of rock music: Elvis. the Beatles, Dylan, Bowie…

  2. Peter Flynn says

    Like Callum, great tribute Jeff.

    From the BBC:


  3. Thanks Peter & Vin.

    Hoping our national broadcaster (or other network) might throw us a few bones at some stage.

    Caught the 10 minute video for Black Star this morning for the first time. Mesmerising and powerful to say the least but probably not everyone’s cuppa. Had to rewatch Bowie’s hilarious turn on Extras to bring me back to an even keel.

  4. DBalassone says

    Great stuff Jeff. That scene from Extras is gold! And jokes aside, it’s actually quite a bouncing tune as well.

    I wonder what fundamentalist atheist Gervais thinks of (his hero) Bowie’s final song/clip ‘Lazarus’?

  5. Never been a huge Bowie fan, but loved a lot of his songs, if that’s not too much of a contradiction. Had a Spotify playlist of his songs going on heavy rotation the last couple of days. All the obvious things about the span and scope of his creativity, but one thing that struck me was the clarity of his voice. The beautifully spoken (and sung) middle Englishman. I realise how much I knew and understood the lyrics of all his songs. So rare in the last 40 years where so much is muddied or muttered.

  6. A fine tribute, Jeff.
    Yesterday, I saw an excerpt of an old “Countdown” interview when he was asked why he filmed the clip for “Let’s Dance” in the outback. He replied (I’m paraphrasing) that he wanted to explore indigenous relationships and their integration with white society. And this was in 1980!

  7. Peter – my earth shattering theory is that artists with something interesting to say (and with a half decent voice) tend to sing with more clarity. Bowie covered a great range of topics and themes, unlike today’s ilk too often consumed by pointless inanity.

    Smokie – you may have also seen that clip from 1983 which went viral where Bowie very politely turns the tables on an MTV interviewer and condemns the lack of black artists on their playlist. No surprise really given his Motown influences circa Young American / Golden Years.

  8. Phillip Dimitriadis says

    Nice tribute JD. I was lucky enough to see the Duke live at Kooyong in’87. The original pop chameleon, my favourite line: “I’d rather be here with all the madmen than perish with the sad men roaming free.” Vale Starman

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