Posts Tagged ‘Space Oddity’

I don’t normally watch award shows. Years ago I was a dedicated viewer to the Academy Awards, and would poke my head in on the Emmys and Grammys occasionally, but all the shows became so much over-produced schmaltz that I just couldn’t sit through them anymore. These days, thanks to the lovely wasteland that is the Internet, I can get the complete winners lists, criticize the red carpet couture, and view any interesting highlights without having to suffer through the whole tedious three hours of fake smiles, polite clapping, and crappy elevatorized music. Sorry, Broadcast TV – I’m just not that in to you anymore.


Photo: Kevin Winter/WireImage.com https://www.grammy.com/photos/lady-gaga-85

So I watched Lady Gaga’s Grammy tribute to David Bowie today, well after the fact (you can view it yourself here). At first I was just going to put a few thoughts on Facebook and leave it at that. But, as usual, there ended up being too many words and especially too many links to really be practical for that forum. Hence, this week’s rant for all you lucky readers.

In a nutshell, it didn’t work for me. When I first heard that Lady Gaga had been tapped to do the tribute, I was thrilled. I admit to being a fan. Much like Bowie, she had to resort to antics for attention before people realized there was actually talent there. Kind of a sad statement for our world, but it’s been that way for so long I’ve given up hoping it can ever change. For those of you who only see the crazy costumes and behavior, you need to check out her duets with Tony Bennett (like this one here), or – better yet – go watch her Super Bowl performance of our national anthem (here). It’s not just tough to sing because it’s our anthem, but the vocal range is really demanding and she nails it. Sadly, she didn’t do the same for Bowie.

I think the biggest problem – besides being more over-produced schmaltz – was Gaga trying to BE Bowie. Her costuming, make up, and even mannerisms were all straight from the early Bowie catalogue. I thought she was off to a good start with “Space Oddity” and the facial projections – that was cool stuff. But she proceeded to go off the deep end with the rest of the performance. Too much, too flashy, too desperate.

And just because imitation is the sincerest form of flattery, doesn’t make it the best. I can’t imagine how tough it must be to try and produce some sort of fitting tribute to such a giant in your industry. I know Gaga was indeed attempting to give Bowie a proper salute. But no one can ever be Bowie but Bowie. He became a performer because no one else was singing his songs, and the few who did couldn’t do them the way he thought they should be done. He became a rock icon because he had a singular vision and never swayed from it, touching millions along the way and influencing generations of artists through to the end of time. He can be copied (usually badly), but never duplicated.

Also, in reviewing the songs in the medley, the “newest” one featured was “Let’s Dance.”[1] That was released in 1983, folks. 1983! Bowie had over thirty more years of career after that. Thirty more years which included seven extensive tours[2], ten more solo albums (none of which rated less than Silver in Britain[3]), and numerous awards (including two Grammy’s and a BRIT for Best British Male[4]). Why did less than half of his storied career get acknowledged? Why are we only remembering Ziggy Stardust and Aladdin Sane and the Thin White Duke? His later albums are just as good, IMHO, and this “oversight” just seems to cater to the crazy antics and costuming and not the talent.

You want to see the real Bowie? Go get David Bowie: A Reality Tour. I’d recommend buying the DVD because I like watching things over and over, but you can also rent it through Amazon here. This is how I want to remember Bowie. He’s relaxed and having fun and at the top of his game, giving a two-and-a-half hour show that would exhaust people half his age (he was pushing 57 at the time). There’s no flashy costumes, no hoards of back-up dancers, no crazy make-up, no over-dubbing or auto-tune or any of that other production crap the current crop of “singers” depend on. Just a great voice, a hot band, and a lifetime of incredible music.

Lady Gaga was a fitting choice for the tribute. But her approach was all wrong. She could have still done her face projection thing, but used pictures from his entire life as she sang. And then sung only two songs: “Space Oddity” (his first hit), and “Lazarus” (his last). Sometimes going small can be really big, and that kind of approach would have been a lot more attractive to me.

I don’t think Bowie would have been insulted by her performance, or embarrassed. No, it would have been far worst than that – he would have been disappointed. And we all know how terrible a feeling it is when we disappoint someone we really care about. Someday maybe Lady Gaga will realize the mistake she made and will finally blossom into her full talent. Until then, we’ll just have to make due with the likes of David Bowie. Pardon me, I have a concert to go watch again.


(PostScript: I didn’t see it until after I had written the above, but Duncan Jones [Bowie’s son and a brilliant filmmaker in his own right – go see Moon!] had a rather interesting response to Gaga’s performance as well on his Twitter account. You can see it here. Ever the gentleman, I suspect his note is a much more succinct version of my meanderings. But that’s just my take on it. YMMV and all that…)


[1] https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/David_Bowie_discography

[2] https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_David_Bowie_concert_tours

[3] https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_music_recording_certifications

[4] https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_awards_and_nominations_received_by_David_Bowie

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We will all be remembered.

Each of us, in our own unique way. Most of us only by our closest family and friends, and then for maybe two or three generations. Some of us may barely touch another soul or two, for mere moments. A few of us may leave something behind that saves our names for the centuries. Or our name gets lost in time while our mark lives on, mysterious and poignant. The most rare of us become transcendent, touching millions, and leaving a legacy impossible to miss or forget.

David Bowie was one of those so very rare. A visionary well beyond the boundaries of mere music, his death this past weekend leaves a void in the creative world that can never be filled. I can’t admit to being a rabid fan, but I always wanted to hear his work, even when I didn’t really understand it. His “Let’s Dance” album was a large part of my college playlist, while “Space Oddity” is required background music for any science fiction writer worth their words. As I browsed through his catalog on YouTube, I found myself relearning just how large a part he played in music, and how much his work contributes to the soundtrack of my life. His passing takes another irreplaceable piece of me.


It’s weird sometimes how people touch your lives and you don’t really understand the depth of that touch until they are gone. I’ve been very melancholy since I learned the news. I didn’t expect that. Yes, I’m always a little sad when someone passes, especially when it’s from something like cancer. I’ve watched several friends die because of cancer. It’s an insidious, hateful disease that wastes its victims to nothingness in so many ways besides just the physical. Fuck cancer. And the horse it rode in on.

But this is more than just being mad at losing yet another bright spot in our universe to that perversion of cell growth. It’s also another mark of time passing by. It’s another reminder that we are all mortal, doomed to take a final step eventually. Bowie’s steps will one day be the metaphorical equivalent of dinosaur prints – forever embedded for countless generations to experience. The rest of us – well, we’ll just have to make due with the few minutes we get before the waves wash our tracks off the beach.

Some – like Bowie – leave an indelible body of work. We still remember Plato and Mozart and Shakespeare, not because of the individual, but because of the tracks they left. For most of humanity, children are the tracks we leave. Our children are our legacy. It is with them that we pass on our wisdom, our experiences, our stories, our existence. For good or ill, it is the children that will remember. And maybe that’s why I’m feeling a little out of sorts about being reminded – yet again – that I’m not getting any younger. Not having had children, who will remember me? What is my legacy? I want to be more than just the eccentric aunt who collected cats and hid in her house, but time is no longer on my side.

When I was a kid, I fantasized about my awesome future. Once I (literally) grew out of wanting to be a jockey, my world became all about music and writing and movies. I was going to be an Academy Award winning writer/composer/director/producer/actress who played in a rock band on the side. Then it was just the writer/composer/producer part, because I wasn’t thin enough to be an actress and didn’t have the patience to deal with people on a daily basis to be a director, and simply didn’t have the chops to be in a decent band. As I became aware of the problems associated with fame, I decided I’d be okay working as a music teacher during the school year and writing award-winning novels over the summers. At least, until the novels brought me enough money that I didn’t have to teach anymore. Then I become an adult, and had to deal with bills and housing and car payments, and it became about doing anything just to get things paid. Somewhere the dreams derailed and were trampled beneath the minutia of real life, and my creative drive was smothered by my fears and insecurities.

It’s been nearly four years since my husband agreed to let me try my writing fantasy full time. Four years I feel I’ve squandered. I don’t write everyday. In fact, most of the last eighteen months – besieged by the blasted eye problems – all I’ve written is this blog. My submission/query list over that four years is woefully short. And I have nothing but rejections to show for them. I’ve hidden in the dark, watching videos and playing computer games, and letting the depression eat me alive.

Yet, despite that, I HAVE finished a novel and several short stories. And while my query/submission list is less than desirable, I at least have the rejections to show for the trying. I’ve also started a second novel and have half a dozen stories in various states of non-completion. In the grand scheme of things, I’ve actually accomplished more than most. Does it meet my standards? Of course not – and therein lies the problem. I am my own worst critic, crippling myself with bars set too high and goals set too large, and then damning myself when I fail.

And here’s where listening to some of Bowie’s works reminded me of what I need to do:

“I, I will be king

And you, you will be queen

Though nothing, will drive them away

We can beat them, just for one day

We can be heroes, just for one day”


 Thanks for the reminder, David. Rest in peace.


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