On Reading Rolling Stone’s Special David Bowie Book…

What’s especially interesting to me in the RS Bowie book–comprised of highlights from this great artist’s life, interviews through the years–is the two arcs of his life: the arc of his life as an artist, and especially the arc of his maturation as a person. Interviewed in the 70s he’s talking as if he’s going to be the new messiah…very, very vain, arrogant stuff…sneering at rocknroll. Saying he’s never going to tour again. Then three months later Bowie announces a giant world tour…and so on. And it’s all very cocaine talk. You can hear the cocaine fomenting the megalomania. He almost killed himself with the stuff, later…

So then another interview, a few years later, Bowie is somewhat more reflective; another one still later, shows no megalomania, but always himself as the fave topic; then the next one, less narcissism, more looking at the world and people, a seriousness, as if Bowie’s recognized the real scale of one life against the universe…A man and an artist growing up.

One really has to admire his insistence on returning at intervals to commercially risky art-driven albums. They fail commercially, for the most part–but he doesn’t care. He does something commercial (but good) to finance the next art recording.

Hopefully everyone who loves intelligent rock has heard Bowie’s last two albums, The Next Day and Blackstar–the two comprising a final outburst of genius. The last one, Blackstar, a grappling with death, with real death; not death as an abstraction but his own inexorable death with which he had a definite appointment. The videos for Blackstar are stunning…And when one considers how he planned it, knowing he would die, and doggedly doing the work in the last months, getting it right, one is stricken to the heart.


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