Recently I've been back from university for Easter, and on a trip out the other day my parents said that they would buy me a record as a treat. I agonised over the decision for so long, looking through all of the releases at least twice, making a mental list of all the things that took my fancy. Eventually I ended up picking out the latest David Bowie collection titled Legacy. I'm not a humongous fan of posthumous releases but this one caught my eye. Mainly due to the fact that the track list on the back of it contained an incredible variety of Bowie songs ranging from Golden Years to Lazarus to Fame. It's not even the longest greatest hits but I think it encapsulates everything Bowie was about. He took the Zeitgeist and turned that into a norm, he took his wildest ideas and made fantastic music out of it.
This brings me on to the phenomenal discography of the man himself, no two albums are exactly the same and he never specifically followed one sound. The course of his musical career was one of innovation and extraordinary ideas that would make even the most hardcore fans wonder what was coming next. For example, when Let's Dance was released in 1983 it was thought that he was going to carry on with very art inspired music, taking inspiration from his good friend Andy Warhol and even making a song about him. This train of thought by the music media was completely annihilated when he released the pop heavy, toe tapping, piano avoiding single that was to be one of his finest and most famous singles, Let's Dance. What Bowie knew was how to make timeless music and boy, was he good at it. You can take any of his music from the birth of his career in the 60's to the day he passed away, put it on and it will still sound refreshing and yet still nostalgic all at the same time.
Harking back to the Legacy compilation, there is a "2017 mix" of Life on Mars on there, one of the greatest and most iconic songs of all time. I saw that and thought to myself "why would anyone commit such a heinous act as to tamper with an already perfect song. But having played this song on wax many times now, I can safely say that they took an exciting, excruciatingly adventurous song and made it into something beautiful. The song has been stripped back to an extent so that there is barely anything left on the track except his isolated vocals and a soft piano with the occasional burst of the original drum beat. This, for me, is what makes Bowie so special. You can chop and change his music even to extents where it isn't recognisable but it will still sound great.
If you've read my post on my Record Store Day pick ups then you'll have seen that I picked up David Bowie - Cracked Actor which is a live recording of him in 1978 in LA. Upon extensive listening to this project I can see that, there are imperfections to Bowie whilst he was live, but he left everything on the stage and the breaking in his voice sometimes not only amplifies emotion but shows to us that he's still human deep down. But also, you can almost feel this deep separation between him and the crowd, it's almost as if he's there to just solely entertain them in a circus type of way, like a performer. What can be taken from this is that Bowie was not at ease with his fame at first, and that is evident on many of his songs, especially Fame which was co-written by John Lennon. Bowie wanted to be an expert of his craft, but he was also a very private man, as shown by the fact that he had not performed live from 2005 all the way to his death in early 2016. An 11 year hiatus from touring is out of the ordinary in a business that is limelight based and where you must remain relevant. Bowie's illness was unbeknownst to anyone outside of close family and yet it affected millions of people.
Bowie even wrote some of the most beautiful songs of all time, from pure, raw emotion on tracks like Heroes to beautifully orchestrated music and lyricism on tracks like Moonage Daydream. But what Bowie did best was be himself. And that is something I have always taken away from his music. Is that being yourself is being the best you, because no one ever controlled what music he made, or what clothes he wore. He did whatever he wanted and he did it perfectly well. And if I ever learn anything from his 25+ albums I really hope it's that.