The Arts Review editorial board looks back at some of the most poignant moments of David Bowie’s career.
DAVID BOWIE feat. ANNIE LENNOX – “Under Pressure” at Freddie Mercury Tribute – as described by bojan srb
It’s incredibly difficult to nail that “people on streets” spoken word part of “Under Pressure”–an already exhausted song; and certainly, nobody has done it as well as Freddie Mercury or as poorly as Debra Messing. But here’s a carnivalesque Annie Lennox and a Riddlery David Bowie giving that line their all–and succeeding.
DAVID BOWIE AS TILDA SWINTON AND TILDA SWINTON AS DAVID BOWIE – as described by bojan srb
Though not the most typical gender-bending moment in Bowie’s career, this image went viral when it first came out in 2013, perhaps because it exemplified most fully his endless, lifelong fascination with androgyny.
BOWIE THE ACTOR – as described by matthew libby
A master musician, Bowie was also a true multi-hyphenate – he acted for directors as varied as Nicolas Roeg and Tony Scott and Jim Henson and Martin Scorsese and David Lynch and Julian Schnabel and Ben Stiller and Ricky Gervais and Christopher Nolan. His performance in Nolan’s The Prestige is my favorite of his – only an eccentric like Bowie could have brought Nikola Tesla to life in the way that he did.
THE TUNNEL SONG – as described by justine beed
“Rest in Peace David Bowie. Thank you forever for the tunnel song.” – Stephen Chbosky
Bowie’s “Heroes” is the track that closes out Chbosky’s book turned film, “The Perks of Being a Wallflower”. The song shows up twice–the first time Charlie watches Sam in the back of the pickup truck and as she stretches out her arms behind her he says to Patrick, “I feel infinite”. The second is the last scene of the film, when he gets into the back of the truck himself. In that last shot of Charlie–the anxious kid who ultimately learns to let go and “participate”–the song starts to build and once the credits begin to roll, that line about stealing time feels so full…I can’t think of another word for it other than full. The line, the song is about being here, about living now, about taking back time, maybe even forgetting it. Maybe Bowie lived that way, maybe he didn’t. He wrote about it and I, amidst millions of others, heard it. We heard it and and felt it. And I hope, in those last couple days before he passed, he was feeling it too.
TELL ME ABOUT THE BABE – as described by loralee sepsey
My earliest childhood memories include snuggling up next to my mom under one of my grandmother’s quilts, eating Pop Tarts, and watching Labyrinth. This movie is fantastical, beautiful, terrifying, magical; it instills in its viewers a strange love-hate for the mysterious Goblin King, a role only someone as multifaceted, genderfluid, talented, and transcendent as David Bowie could fill. For me, “Dance Magic” is the quintessential Bowie: a gorgeous combination of weird puppetry, glamour rock, and sheer star power.
BOWIE THE GIVER – as described by katie nesser
David Bowie’s last album, Blackstar, came out last Friday, just two days before his death. I spent much of Saturday marvelling at the fact that this 69-year-old legend was still working to innovate and elaborate on his already monumental career. His new single “Lazarus” was a great Bowie song for two days, but now it’s something more. It’s a gift to his fans, a goodbye to the kooks who followed him through his career, the kids who used him as an entryway into the past, present, and future of music (as he drew upon all three), and those who simply admired the audacity of a man who refused to stand still. “Just like that bluebird, oh I’ll be free / Ain’t that just like me?” he sings on “Lazarus.” And the careful, thoughtful, even theatrical nature of his death really is just like him.
WE COULD BE HEROES – as described by alejandra salazar
Transcendent. That’s David Bowie. His music, his persona, his legacy — when it’s laid out in front of you, it’s hard to believe that so much creativity and innovation and boldness and passion could possibly exist in one lifetime. In a way, then, and because of this, Bowie never seemed real. Somehow, he couldn’t be human because, somehow, he was more than that. He was the floating figure in the “Heroes” music video: always existing in almost mythical proportions, always inviting us to join him for the ride — if just for one day.
I think that’s why yesterday hurt so much. This person, this ethereal star who shone so brightly and inspired us to do the same, was human after all, and the realization was a shock. But even now, I still think of that “Heroes” video, where Bowie earnestly beckons you to be a king and a queen, to be the lover and the hero you always wanted to be. Like this song, he’s impossible to get out of your head. Like all great heroes, David Bowie is impossible to forget.
BRINGING DOWN THE WALL – as described by sophia laurenzi
“Goodbye, David Bowie. You are now among Heroes. Thank you for helping to bring down the wall.” This tweet from yesterday morning from the German Foreign Office is a reminder that Bowie is more than a musical, cultural, magical hero. From 1976 to 1978, he lived in Berlin saving himself, saving his friend Iggy Pop, and saving a city that needed him. In 1987 when he returned for an outdoor concert at the Berlin Wall, thousands of East Berliners gathered to listen from the other side of the wall. Even though they couldn’t see him, they could hear him, and he could hear their cheers. In Bowie’s words, it broke his heart. Now we’re all listening to him from the other side. We still hear you, David Bowie.
THE MOMENT THAT I SAW HIM… – as described by brittany newell
A more poignant spinoff of the coming out narrative is the moment-when-I-discovered-X. X is the embodiment of a life, a way of being, that was too far-out to even dare to dream about. Upon discovery (usually between the ages of 8-12), you are shocked, and a little scared, and definitely obsessed with this mystical entity, someone who says things you didn’t even realize you wanted to say, who gets you going, who is sexy and wise, who is immune to law, whose influence on you is almost weirdly strong, whose life is not necessarily permissible but somehow, strikingly, impudently possible. X can be Dr. Frank-N-Furter, Michael Jackson, Edmund White, Antony, Grace Jones, James St. James…. and for so many people I know, it was David Bowie, a gender rebel and bright soul whose criminal dazzle allowed one a sneak peek of a future life. Even in death, he will continue to be this alien light, a northstar for the broken-hearted queers. Bless the bent, bless Mr. Bowie.
Photo credits to Chris Hoffman / Picture Alliance via AP File