And yet, when David Bowie died last month of cancer , at the age of 69, Christians were among the first to send out their condolences and tributes. Born and raised in South London, Bowie was a precocious child who took to the arts naturally, and immersed himself in music and dance.
Enigmatic in life, as he now is in death, many continue to misread him. He exuded it, he defied it, he refused to conform to its norms. Space Oddity , his first great song, is about many things—space travel, the wonders of the universe, isolation, and the fear of losing touch, not just with planet earth, but with reality itself. The mellifluous Changes is about defying expectations, and setting your own course in life, regardless of what critics think.
The stirring Heroes is a Cold War love story about two people determined to lift each other up, despite the oppression and hopelessness around them. And Fame , co-written with John Lennon, is a cautionary, even caustic, tale about celebrity, and its fleeting enchantments. One of them wrote: This song literally saved my life. I was spiraling down, fast, cutting myself, contemplating suicide. One night listening to my iPod on shuffle I was considering ending it. After ten years of depression, who needs one more?
Then this song came on. Bowie underwent his own recovery as well. His song Ashes to Ashes was not only a well-crafted song, but described his fight against addiction, and the personal demons that had haunted him during the first decade of his career. As he matured, he gradually won those battles, and became a different man. He kicked his drug habit, and became close to his son after the unfortunate breakdown of his first marriage and adopted a more hopeful outlook.
He had settled down and become a family man, once saying that if he had to choose between his marriage and his career, his marriage would win hands down. Bowie may have been a rebel, but his rebellion cut both ways.
He could say and do some outrageous things, but just as easily startle people with his conservatism. When he was a youngster, and just becoming interested in music, his father brought David a collection of American 45s by artists such as the Platters, Fats Domino, Elvis Presley and Little Richard. His previous articles can be found here.