David Bowie, my blackstar

david bowie blackstar

A Malaysian fan’s memories and tribute to the late legend, and thoughts on Blackstar

I remember making a decision not too long ago — if David Bowie would come play in South East Asia, any part of it, I would try my utmost to go there to watch him live, and meet him if it’s possible. But sadly, he never came this part of the world in his final years. It wasn’t that much of a surprise ’cause he was simply no Elvis or The Beatles here, in any aspect. None of my friends and family listened to his music, I was ignored every time I requested the live bands at pubs to play a song of his, so-called rock events here never had anything of him, and my posts about Space Oddity and his previous album The Next Day didn’t even have over 100 hits until after his death (there are thousands now, somehow). I, myself, wouldn’t have heard about him if I wasn’t a fan of the musicians that he influenced, like Nirvana and Beyond. But his recent passing have definitely changed that. His name was even trending in Malaysian social media for more than two days. His music will now reach even more people, and his life appreciated and celebrated by more than ever before.

The first time I heard his songs were covers by other artists (I didn’t even know they were covers then), most notably The Man Who Sold the World covered by Nirvana. Then I heard Under Pressure, only because Queen was so popular, but almost nobody here knew the other guy in the song was David Bowie until people had internet. He was never truly credited. Fast forward to the year 2008 or so, I remember finding and listening to Space Oddity the first time, and was instantly fascinated by it. I wanted to know more about happened to Major Tom in the song. And then I started listening to more of his stuff, and I simply became a fan from then on. Reading Wikipedia pages about his albums ’cause his songs had so much in it — compelling stories and metaphors, I wanted more interpretations other than my own.

His 1972 album, The Rise and Fall of Ziggy Stardust and the Spiders from Mars, one of the best rock albums in history, stayed in my car’s CD player for almost a year. When I found out that the whole album tells a single story about an alien who forms a rock band to tell the world that the end is coming, my mind exploded and regretted that I never heard about it until fucking 2008. I remember singing and screaming to Five Years every time the album was played. These lines, “It was cold, and it rained, so I felt like an actor, and I thought of ma, and I wanted to get back there,” gets me every time. I was into his work that I turned the song I wrote (Orbit) about my dog’s death into a space rock track.

His music was a lot of fun, and of course, highly emotionally engaging as well, like great films. The stories in his lyrics, and the unique way his tells it in his songs, are very compelling, intriguing, and unlike most of today’s music, there’s substance in everyone of them. His music are always different, eccentric, never the same as others, never tried to be relatable, and he never stuck to one style. He continued to be experimental and break new ground, thinking out of the box and into space. That’s what’s so special about him. He never wrote what the market would buy, and instead, he sold us new worlds, journeys and perspectives, that only he could do so often. His performances in films also had quite a strong impact, especially The Man Who Feel to Earth (1976), which has got to be one of the most disturbing films I’ve ever seen. David Bowie was a true artist, through and through.

Which brings us to the album Blackstar, which was released on his 69th birthday, just two days before he passed away. The tracks sound dark, experimental, mystical, mysterious, multi-dimensional and definitely far from pop star material. When its singles Blackstar and Lazarus were released prior to the album along with the theatrical music videos (as eccentric as Bowie’s videos tend to be), many were probably wondering the heck’s going on. Nobody knew his health was declining but when the sad news had just come over, it then became clear that the album is cryptic of his final words, reminiscence and goodbye to the world. The tracks in the album were written during his 18-month battle against cancer. Tony Visconti, the producer of the album and Bowie’s long-time friend who produced many of his albums, publicly confirmed that Blackstar was a planned parting gift to the fans. It’s just so David Bowie, it’s beautiful, it’s artistically sincere and as a fan, I wouldn’t have wanted the last work of his life to be any other way.

David Bowie’s passing was truly a difficult reality for me to accept. I don’t usually shed tears due to the death of a non-relative, but for his, I did and I’m not ashamed of it. I am, and will, forever be inspired by this creative genius, a man who never feared to do and say whatever he wanted and felt was right, in the classiest of ways. His music still takes me to a journey, into space and through stars, whenever I want to. And for all that, I thank you, David Bowie. See you in space.

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