David Bowie was one of those artists that, if you had asked me, I’d have told you that I wasn’t a fan of. “Never been fond.” I would have said, almost automatically. And yet, if you’d have played me some of his songs or even just shown me a list, I would have been “Well except for that one. Oh, and that one. Well yeah, everyone loves that one. Kurt Cobain did it best, but it was a hell of a song to start with.”
The man worked at such a high level that, even for someone like me who doesn’t count himself as a fan, there are songs of his that provide the soundtrack to certain parts of my life. Which isn’t really a surprise, as Bowie provided the soundtrack to pretty much everything else, sometimes with only one song.
Life on Mars alone has been featured in the background of countless iconic scenes in movies and television. That’s without even thinking about the television shows (both British and American) that were named after it. That was just one song. Bowie had dozens that were both innovative and alien, yet somehow perfectly suited to the moments they punctuated, and eminently quotable.
I remember a moment in Red Dwarf, a British science fiction comedy show, where the main characters are trying to steal a spaceship and escape from prison. When asked to identify themselves by Ground Control, one of the characters leans forwards and says “Major Tom” pulling a laugh you just couldn’t get with something that hadn’t entered the lexicon so completely. In fact, if I think on it, I’m not sure I’d even heard Space Oddity back when I heard that joke, yet I still knew the line well enough to get a laugh from it.
There have been a lot of musicians who’ve passed over the years, but the one who comes to mind is oddly connected to Bowie with a song they performed together. Freddie Mercury was something incredibly special and the world lost some of it’s music when he died. I still wouldn’t describe myself as a Bowie fan, but I recognise that something unique has been taken from this world with his passing.