The world is still reeling from losing one of the 20th century’s greatest musical icons.
David Bowie died yesterday at the age of 69, after an 18-month battle with cancer. For many people in our social media driven age, it was a shock.
Eric Alper of eOne Music Canada says the secrecy about Bowie’s health is just one more sign of how much respect the musician commanded.
He says in his last years Bowie had everyone he worked with sign a confidentiality agreement about their time together – that everyone followed through showed how much people cared.
Endless ink could be spilled about Bowie’s career, but Alper says the thing that stands out is how unafraid Bowie was to change himself.
“Pick a year. If you were to ask any David Bowie fan what their favourite album was or favourite period was you’re going to get a completely different answer.”
In less than a decade he jumped form Ziggy stardust, androgynous and sexuality ambiguous to a soul man – then to the New Wave pop rock of Let’s Dance. He says it had a massive impact – on music culture, and in people’s lives.
“Nobody in music was doing that. And it opened up a whole different world.”
He says what made it more remarkable was that it was all authentic – who Bowie was at any moment was what was in his head and in his heart, and was built with study and care from musical and cultural influences.
Just as everyone has a favourite Bowie persona – everyone has a favourite Bowie memory.
For Drex, it’s the video for Let’s Dance – filmed, of course in Australia – where Bowie dances tapping his foot against the wall of a pub.
For Alper, it’s when Bowie turned up at Bing Crosby’s door to sing The Little Drummer boy.
“As a kid you have no idea how strange it was until you grew up and you looked back at all the different phases of Bowie’s life and realized this is just really kind of normal Bowie.”
Those are both easily trumped by local radio legend Larry Hennessey (of the former Rock 101 duo Larry and Willy), who met the man in person.
“We waited for 10, 20 minutes… and oh my God here he came.” Says Hennessey.
“Short guy. Diminutive guy. But with a huge powerful presence. When the guy came in it was like he was radiating an electric blue field. When you’re in the presence of somebody like that, who’s such a legend, and you spent your life listening to his music and watching the guy… It doesn’t matter how many famous people you’ve met, you’re just like ‘oh my God.'”
Hennessey says Bowie took the time to speak to everyone one-on-one and shake their hand. He says when Bowie got to his wife, who had given birth maybe a month before, he tapped her belly and asked if she was expecting.
When it was all over, she was horrified.
“I go, what do you mean? We’ve just met David Bowie?’ And she goes ‘yeah, but David Bowie thinks I’m fat!”
LISTEN: Larry Hennessey describes meeting David Bowie
Bowie leaves behind a massive legacy.
On top of his music, he leaves behind a wide film catalogue – having played a vampire, a Roman emperor, and even a goblin king.
Eric Alper says he thinks acting came so easily to Bowie because of his many personas.
“He was essentially an actor playing a musician.”
But it’s his musical legacy that will be best remembered. When he was alive, he was constantly a driving force helping change the face of music.
Now, he’s set to do it again. Alper says Bowie’s passing has breathed new life into his catalogue, exposing it to a new generation.
“If you take a look at the iTunes top 100 right now, David Bowie sits at #1 with his brand new album, and also #2, #4, and #5. So he holds down four of the top five spots. And this is an oportunity for people to say to themselves enough talking, and go listen to the music right now.”
That catalogue, capped by the superstar’s final offering, Lazarus – a piece in which Bowie fearlessly explores his own death.
“I truly believe this is David Bowie’s final statement,” says Alper. “And he knew it. This was the album he wanted us to be parted with, and it’s a stunning record.”
LISTEN: Drex and Eric Alper say goodbye to David Bowie