Celebrating the Thin White Duke on his death day with an exclusive new mix
It was the kind of call you get only when you lose a loved one, and that indeed was what David Bowie was to me when I got the news of his passing five years ago today.
The loss of a public figure has only impacted me with the force of overcoming the death of a family member three times. The first was George Harrison. The second was Adam Yauch. The third is David Bowie. Since I was in the second grade, entranced by the strange clown on the salmon-colored beach in the “Ashes to Ashes” video airing on the newly launched Music Television network, the Thin White Duke has played such a crucial role in shaping how I listen to music and my ability to appreciate the art of making rock ‘n roll more than any other artist in my collection.
Without Bowie, I would have never arrived at Brian Eno, Can, Kraftwerk, Cluster, Roxy Music, T.Rex, Mott the Hoople, Bjork, Stevie Ray Vaughan, Japan, Iggy Pop, The Smiths, Echo and the Bunnymen, Pulp, Nile Rodgers, Pat Metheny, Lester Bowie, David Sanborn, Durutti Column, Nick Cave and the Bad Seeds, Robert Fripp, Adrian Belew, Philip Glass and, most recently, a greater appreciation for the original material of jazz musicians Donny McCaslin, Mark Guiliana, Ben Monder, Jason Lindner and Tim Lefebvre, who helped him bring his final farewell Blackstar to life.
Meanwhile, his work in film, be it as the enigmatic Goblin King in Labyrinth or as Pontius Pilate in The Last Temptation of Christ, or as Andy Warhol in Basquiat or in perhaps his finest cinematic role as Nikola Tesla in The Prestige, provided an equal source of education and inspiration. (I still have yet to see The Man Who Fell to Earth, and that’s on me.) I was also a very big fan of the last 20 years of his recorded output, especially 1995’s Outside, Bowie’s final collaboration with longtime friend and producer Brian Eno, the 25th anniversary of which Rock & Roll Globe commemorated this fall. I also loved his 1997 jungle-kissed LP Earthling, 1999’s vastly underrated Hours…, and the three amazing albums he had put out before Blackstar: 2002’s Heathen, 2004’s Reality and 2013’s The Next Day, all of which deserve as much of a revisit as any classic Bowie LP that preceded it.
Like his cosmic brother Prince, who would join him up in Heaven four months later, Bowie was able to create this unshakable balance between looking back and moving forward. His last 25 years were as crucial to his first 25, arguably speaking, and everything he’s done has enriched my life as a music listener. It hurts to listen to Blackstar because its so warm, so inventive, so Bowie, and we all knew he still had good work to do as he and his new jazz band would’ve surely recorded a follow-up.
To honor the 5th anniversary of his passing, I put together this playlist of studio and live material culling from the last 30 years, including archival titles.
Listen and remember.