It took me some time to process David Bowie’s passing earlier this week. It was a shock to me, reading the news on my phone at 5:30 a.m. “That can’t be right.” was quickly followed by “Is this a hoax?” and eventually settled on “Oh man. This is terrible news.”
I am a classic rock junkie. I love it. I grew up on it. But me saying that I grew up on it is like my kids saying they’re growing up on Seinfeld. Sure, they are. But they’re reruns. It’s not the same. However, for me – and anyone who ever listens to David Bowie for the first time – it is the same. I don’t know if I remember a musician that everyone liked. Sinatra? Elvis? The Beatles? You will find people who are all too willing to tell you they don’t like them. David Bowie was different.
I am not the guy who will tell you all of Bowie’s influences and the impact he has had on music. Nor will I tell you the five most underrated songs or the best five songs you’ve never heard, from his complete catalog. I can make a list of my favorite songs. I can tell you my favorite (Life on Mars, followed closely by Queen Bitch). I can tell you one of my favorite soundtracks featuring his music (The Life Aquatic with Steve Zissou). I can tell you my favorite line (“Put on your red shoes and dance the blues”) which was also my first exposure to his music.
Why do so many people love David Bowie’s music? I’m willing to bet it always comes down to something they feel. That’s usually why we love what we love. But in his case the music made you feel. A lot. Something different every time, but still, a lot.
I couldn’t tell you why I loved his music when I heard it. I just heard it and said to myself ‘shit that’s good’. And the more I listened and learned the more I loved everything I heard. I realized that Bowie was not only telling a story lyrically, every note, every riff, every piece of what he wrote was intentional and designed to communicate something.
That’s why music, conceived and delivered in the 70s and 80s rang true on a classic rock station in the 90s and still does today. That’s why everyone who ever listened to one verse woke up and felt something. One thing this time. Sadness. Until they remembered everything else his music ever made them feel.