Cataclysmic Sounds Rise Off Into Infinite Bliss: The Life of David Bowie (1947-2016)

Why David Bowie’s Own Tragic & Beautiful Narrative Struck a Chord in My Heart

The birth of a star is marked by a fiery event. A hallmark of it is a fanfare of explosions and a gravitational force so powerful that nuclear fusion is activated and the star begins to shine.

The life of David Bowie exploded into earth’s atmosphere in 1967 with a self-titled album written entirely by him.

At only 20 years of age, it showed signs of his genius and set the stage for what would become a supernova of brilliance.

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As a kid growing up in Knoxville, Bowie’s music became a soundtrack of my life. My sister was a DJ at a local radio station and she loved (and played) all types of music.

Lucky for me, one of her favorite artists was David Bowie and he soon became much-loved by me too.

His albums’ cover art were always exciting, odd, beautiful and daring. Sometimes his image would be flawlessly styled in body hugging spandex or theatrical drag while striking a glam rocker pose with those piercing blue eyes—his left pupil permanently dilated from a childhood accident and looking as though it were actually brown—casting their spell.

Other times his willowy frame would be adorned in some otherworldly costume with oversized sleeves and ballooning pant legs, his chiseled features streaked with various tints and shades taking on the appearance of a rainbow colored Mardi Gras mask.

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RCA Records

Reading the liner notes on his albums was like curling up with a favorite novel that never ran out of new chapters or plot twists.

I was just a kid so I didn’t always understand what Bowie’s song lyrics meant, but the melodies always held my attention.

Not until I was an adult was I finally able to decipher some of the more complex lyrics from his early works.

But any confusion I may have felt always dissipated once I heard Bowie’s hypnotic and lyrically satisfying vocals that dipped from his lower register to the heady tenor that always commanded center stage.

Space Oddity (1969)

Ground Control to Major Tom (Ten, Nine, Eight, Seven, Six)
Commencing countdown, engines on (Five, Four, Three)
Check ignition and may God’s love be with you (Two, One, Liftoff)

Now it’s time to leave the capsule if you dare
This is Major Tom to Ground Control
I’m stepping through the door
And I’m floating in a most peculiar way
And the stars look very different today

For here
Am I sitting in a tin can
Far above the world
Planet Earth is blue
And there’s nothing I can do

Though I’m past one hundred thousand miles
I’m feeling very still
And I think my spaceship knows which way to go
Tell my wife I love her very much she knows
Ground Control to Major Tom

In my mind, there was always an interesting duality and power struggle between his lyrics and the underlying sadness in his tone. His haunting melodies lulled me into a musical trance and even with head-bobbing favorites like “Fame” and “Let’s Dance”,

I could always hear that echo of sorrow hidden behind a note or two or peering from underneath the chorus.

Not to say that Bowie was unhappy because I’ve read that he was a very jovial, fun loving person who laughed every chance he got. Maybe the sadness I heard in his music was merely a reflection of what I was experiencing in my own life at the time.

My mother died when I was 6 years old and for a long time after that, every song I heard seemed to speak to some part of the heartache that I carried around like my favorite doll.

To this day, “Space Oddity”, “Life On Mars”, “Ziggy Stardust”, and “Starman” still make me cry.

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Bowie’s lyrics were irreverent, angry, hopeful, hopeless, and revolutionary while at the same time, sweet, heartfelt and extremely whimsical: “Ziggy played guitar.”

That’s what genius sounds like.

He was light years ahead of trends in fashion, music, technology and staging and his impact can be seen in just about every generation from the 70s to now: George Clinton, Madonna, Prince, Lady Gaga, Marilyn Manson, Boy George, Adam Lambert, and he even pioneered digital music downloading years before iTunes was in existence.  

Bowie was the first artist to have an internet-only single available entitled “Telling Lies”, which initially netted 300,000 downloads.  Bowie’s label BMG, was taken aback by the huge popularity of the track and the artist’s innovative approach to record sales, and the label soon released the digital single in stores. 

Yet another reminder of how Bowie’s reach was global and his music has inspired artists around the world.

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Scientists say that stars must endure a great deal of pressure before their nuclei can evolve revealing their true radiance.

David Bowie’s courage shone brightly throughout his life, whether he was fighting drug addiction, depression after his brother’s suicide, or the ravages of cancer. With each battle, he fought valiantly and with quiet nobility. He was a gentleman and Rock ‘n Roll icon in the purest sense of the word, but it was the role of husband and father that seemed to bring him the most joy.

I can’t begin to fathom the heartache that his wife and children must be feeling right now.

When I first heard that Bowie had died I was numb and deeply saddened, but my mind immediately reverted to my childhood notions that he was indeed an androgynous alien sent to earth on assignment from a distant planet. His alien family must have missed him terribly and on January 10, 2016 he heeded their call and transitioned back to the place he so longingly sang about, somewhere in the sky.

How wonderful that he’ll now be reunited with his brother and all of his loved ones who transitioned before him.

My mother’s up there too joining the chorus of stars illuminating his journey home.

Starman (1972)

Look out your window I can see his light
If we can sparkle he may land tonight

There’s a starman waiting in the sky
He’d like to come and meet us

But he thinks he’d blow our minds
There’s a starman waiting in the sky

In true rock god form, Bowie released one final album, “Blackstar,” just two days before his death. He recorded it last year after learning that his cancer was terminal. It’s a beautiful and poignant gift to those of us who cherish Bowie’s musical legacy and it’s also the only album that doesn’t feature his ethereal, anomalous face in some form on the cover.

Instead, Bowie opted for a single black star to grace the album front and in the song (and accompanying video) “Lazarus”; he gives us a heartbreaking, theatrical farewell.

An ominous melody wafts through the air as Bowie writhes in bed with his head wrapped in bandages and buttons covering his eyes. He foreshadows his death in a gut-wrenching opening line that he sings with conviction, “Look up here, I’m in Heaven.”  

Yes, he is and it brings my heart great comfort to think that all of the incarnations of Bowie’s spirit have now become one and “just like that bluebird”.  

Bowie is now free…re-imagined into the supernova that will forever burn in our hearts.  

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Lazarus (2016)

Look up here, I’m in heaven
I’ve got scars that can’t be seen
I’ve got drama, can’t be stolen
Everybody knows me now
Look up here, man, I’m in danger
I’ve got nothing left to lose
I’m so high it makes my brain whirl
Dropped my cell phone down below
Ain’t that just like me
By the time I got to New York
I was living like a king
Then I used up all my money
I was looking for your ass
This way or no way
You know, I’ll be free
Just like that bluebird
Now ain’t that just like me
Oh I’ll be free
Just like that bluebird
Oh I’ll be free
Ain’t that just like me


‘Thank You, Mr. Bowie. You Changed Our Lives.’ The New York Times

‘Look up here, I’m in heaven’: David Bowie’s ‘parting gift’ to his devastated fans – a haunting last video released just three days before he lost his battle with cancer

David Bowie’s legacy on the cover of TIME

David Bowie Breaks Vevo Record with 51 Million Video Views in 24 Hours Variety