Pop Culture Princess

Pop Culture Princess
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Wednesday, January 13, 2016

The pop culture magic of David Bowie

A sad start to this week as well as to this year came as news of the death of David Bowie made the media rounds. At the age of 69, he was still going strong with his music, releasing an album,Blackstar, on his birthday that of this writing, is about to hit the top of the Billboard charts.

Bowie was more than just a singer, however; he was many things to so many people and whether you knew him as the Thin White Duke, Ziggy Stardust or Jareth, the Goblin King, he left an indelible imprint on the pop culture landscape that will never fade away.

Bowie's music and flair for outrageous fashion statements are what first caught the attention of  both the mainstream public and the counterculture, due to the fact that he was the type expected to show up in unexpected places. At first glance, someone with the unique creative style of Bowie would be the last person you'd expect to see doing a Christmas song with old school crooner Bing Crosby or be a headliner on Soul Train, yet he always seemed right at home wherever he went:

Bowie's talents also extended to film, where he became known for an eclectic number of roles such as the distraught space alien in The Man Who Fell to Earth, doomed vampire John Blaylock in The Hunger and Pontius Pilate in The Last Temptation of Christ.

For many of us, his role in Labyrinth as the cruelly charismatic Goblin King is an all-time favorite. While the offbeat Jim Henson film wasn't popular in it's day, it has grown into a cult classic that continues to inspire audiences with it's magical use of creativity, not to mention being one of the few female driven fantasy pieces of that time period.

Bowie did a marvelous range of songs for the movie that still hold up on their own, from the closing credits number "Underground" to the haunting "Within You", and one of my personal picks is "Dance Magic", which is just flat-out toe-tapping fun:

Bowie also contributed songs for other movies such as The Falcon and the Snowman and Absolute Beginners(which he produced and had a minor role in). One of those songs was even reused for a particular scene in an Oscar winning film.

One of the few merits of the 1982 remake of Cat People was the soundtrack by Giorgio Moroder and it's theme song "Putting Out The Fire" written and performed by Bowie. The song was played over the end credits, which some thought was a bit of a throwaway for such a raw yet elegant melody.

Quentin Tarantino felt the same way and used that song for a sequence in his WWII set film Inglorious Basterds that highlighted the preparations of the story's unsung heroine Shosanna as she set the stage for revenge against the Nazi regime. The song,like many others in the film, was obviously not of the time period yet it was perfectly suited to the character and her mission to come:

Bowie's music has lent itself to meta use in other places, including TV where his song "Golden Years" was the theme for a short lived Stephen King series.

Most recently, two of his tunes were musical bookends for twisted chanteuse Elsa Mars in the fourth season of American Horror Story, subtitled Freak Show.

 That season freely took songs from other time periods despite it's setting in 1952 but with fitting irony, Elsa's finale had her performing "Heroes", which wrapped up not only her story but those of the remaining players in that strangely sad saga as well:

The loss of David Bowie is huge, especially to his family and personal friends, all of whom I and countless others out there send our deepest condolences. However, his artistry leaves a wonderfully weird legacy that all of us can appreciate and emulate.

 His collaborations with others, not just with his contemporaries like Mick Jagger and Freddie Mercury but new generation artists such as Trent Reznor and Arcade Fire prove what a generous person he was with his time and talent. That shows that he had character and didn't just play one on stage.

It is perhaps the destiny of David Bowie to leave this world but still remain among us as one of our pop culture muses who will always grant the gift of musical magic to those that truly seek it. As sorry as it is to see him go, David Bowie has certainly earned his final bow upon our stage and as much as we would love an encore, his rest from that is well deserved:

1 comment:

Michelle Stockard Miller said...

Wonderful tribute, Tara! He was one of my all time favorites...for as long as I can remember. I also posted a tribute over on my blog, in case you missed it. I will also honor him each year on the date of his death on my blog, as I do for Heath Ledger each year as well.