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A Man Who Has Nothing In Particular To Recommend Him Discusses All Sorts of Subjects at Random as Though He Knew Everything

David Bowie Wrote a Half-Decent Folk Song Once

So, David Bowie died.

The news outlets are stopping the world to sit shiva over him. I’ve never quite gotten used to that behavior. I don’t have anything much to say about the fellow one way or the other, good or bad. He was part of the wallpaper of my life because he used to come out of the radio while I painted apartment buildings, but that’s about it. It’s jarring to see the media stopping in their tracks and devoting all their time to his death, however, like he was Queen Victoria or something. Pop singers don’t belong on the front page.

I was in an airport once, waiting in line, and Henny Youngman was standing in front of me. I had been living in Los Angeles for a while, and got used to seeing minor celebrities out and about. I always left them alone, unless they bothered me first. To me, a stranger is a stranger, whether you know who they are or not. Henny turned around, looked at me, and said, “That’s right, I’m me,” and then turned back around. I found it quite charming, but he was answering a bell that hadn’t rung.

If you are in a strange, faraway place, and you encounter someone that has any connection with your life, you greet them like a friend. If you’re in Italy, and meet an American tourist, you treat them like a long-lost cousin instead of just as much a stranger as the locals. David Bowie wasn’t in everyone’s life because he was important. He was important because he was in everyone’s life. It doesn’t really matter how trivial or profound the reason you’re in the public eye. It’s just the only way people keep score.  

7 Responses

  1. I had some dealings with him briefly and he seemed rather pleasant and down to earth, other than that he wasn't part of my lifes soundtrack.

  2. I felt rather odd, having to turn to the Wiki page to learn a little about him when the news hit. I knew his name of course, but for the life of me, I couldn't name a song. As it turns out, I was working in Liberia in the 70s, so that explains that. Glam rockers weren't real big over there.

    It is a little off-putting, the way people love to flock to the death of a celebrity.

  3. David Bowie became a star after I started going to the Newport [RI/NY] Jazz Festivals and buying albums of the likes of Sonny Rollins. While I heard songs like "Ground Control to Major Tom" on the radio, I never purchased a David Bowie album nor even listened to a David Bowie album.

    I just perused a Greatest Hits of David Bowie on YouTube. The only song I recognized was Space Oddity/Ground Control. I didn't recognize Ziggy Stardust, which I understand was one of his big hits.In the 70's I did listen to some pop/rock, such as Neil Young or Fleetwood Mac- David Bowie just never made my playlist. Or the places I where I hung out never played David Bowie on the jukebox. David Bowie and I- parallel universes.

    I listened to a bit of the album which was released days before his death, which was supposed to have a jazz-like influence. I didn't like the heavy bass/drums.Not at all.

  4. I worked in downtown London for many years (near Whitehall) before returning to Canada. It was not unusual to see very senior cabinet members and politicians walking by themselves from one government office to another.

    Sit outside at the Starbucks next to Embankment Station for a while and you'd inevitably see a familiar British TV personality or actor strolling by or going in for a latte. Saw Hugh Grant once and also the late Alan Rickman. Annie Lennox too.


  5. David Bowie wasn't in everyone's life because he was important. He was important because he was in everyone's life.

    Correct. While I never focused on David Bowie, as I stated in my previous comment, he was in the background. Upon further examination, I realize that I remember not only "Space Oddity/Ground Control," but also "Changes" and "The Man Who Sold the World." I don't remember the lyrics, but I definitely remember the melodies- which is also a way of saying those songs were in the background of my life. But who remembers rock lyrics? Rock music is for dancing to.

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