I heard the sad news about David Bowie’s death this morning, and I couldn’t help myself. Immediately the crushing opening chords of Ziggy Stardust thundered in my head, and I sang, with my internal voice, “Ziggy played guitar . . . .”
Bowie died Sunday at age 69 after a long illness. He had a long and prolific career as a songwriter and performer. He wrote All The Young Dudes — the Mott the Hoople classic — and recorded a series of fabulous songs in the ’70s, like The Jean Genie, Space Oddity, Rebel Rebel, and Diamond Dogs. But I will always think of David Bowie for one reason: his fertile brain and voice and persona created The Rise and Fall of Ziggy Stardust and the Spiders from Mars, which I’ve said before is one of the very best rock albums ever made. It’s easily in the top ten, and maybe in the top five.
It’s one of those albums that is perfect in concept and execution, from beginning to end, every song setting up the next, with interesting lyrics and compelling music and a weird back story that is as shining and wonderful and compelling now as it was the first time I heard it more than 40 years ago when I was in high school. So many of the songs are deeply embedded into my consciousness and come bubbling up, unbidden; I will be walking home in the darkness and suddenly think “Didn’t know what time it was, the lights were low -oh – oh . . . .” I love every note of the album and know I always will.
Most of us don’t know, and will never know, what it is like to be touched by genius and produce a timeless and brilliant creative work. David Bowie did know, and it happened to him more than once, but with Ziggy Stardust he reached a height that very few musicians ever touched. He will be missed — but he will always be remembered.