Do you remember the first David Bowie song that you ever heard?
Believe it or not, I do. In fact, I remember the very first time I ever saw David Bowie performing.
I think I was probably five years old at the time, and at that time my family usually only had twelve channels (we didn't get cable television until 1988 or 1989). But sometimes our cable provider would give us some channels that we could watch for free for a limited time (usually a month) to entice us into subscribing to more channels (which as many know would double your cable bill in the process). MuchMusic (think Canadian MTV) was one of those channels, and it was during one of these previews that I first saw the video for "Dancing in the Street".
Of course, the song was originally made famous by Martha and the Vandellas in 1964 - and again by Van Halen in 1982 - but in August 1985, David Bowie released his own version as a duet with Mick Jagger. The original plan was to have both of them perform the single live during Live-Aid where Bowie would perform in London, while Jagger sang along with him from Philadelphia via satellite. Unfortunately, due to the half-second delay between satellite feeds, this proved to be impossible.
But watching the music video of this single, I realized two things. One, the five year old me thought Mick Jagger was scary. Thankfully by age 10, I liked him again, but when I was five, he scared me.
And the second thing was that I liked David Bowie and wanted to see more of him.
Of course, the kid version in me didn't realize that David Bowie had been around a long time prior to showing his moves like Jagger on the streets. Would you believe that he released his first album nearly fifty years ago? Sure, his self-titled disc came out in 1967, and really it wasn't until 1969's Space Oddity that made people really take notice of him. The point is that he had a career spanning nearly five decades, and he really did have something for everybody, and he influenced so many people.
He was reportedly the first concert that Madonna saw. He appeared on the Conan O'Brien Show several times. He even inspired an astronaut (Chris Hadfield) to sing Space Oddity while Hadfield was actually in space!
David Bowie also seemed to appeal to a wide spectrum of fans. He never really was the type of person to market himself to a specific genre of fans or a certain demographic. He really had something for everyone.
As an 80s kid, I'm sure most of my fellow 80s kids fell in love with him while watching the 1986 film "Labyrinth", where he played the role of the Goblin King. It was intended that he was supposed to be the main villain of the film, but the way he played the role, none of us were really afraid of him. In fact, we actually kind of wanted to be like him!
70s kids might remember Bowie during his "Ziggy Stardust" phase, where he'd perform with brightly dyed orange hair and the wildest of jumpsuits! Of course, the music was just as important as the way he presented himself, but I will state that David Bowie made androgyny cool long before Boy George and his Culture Club even thought of it.
And can I just say that David Bowie's music catalogue remains one of the most eclectic and passionate ones ever recorded? You can obviously tell that Bowie loved what he did and he cared for his fans. From "Space Oddity" and "Ashes To Ashes" to "Let's Dance" and "Modern Love" to "I'm Afraid of Americans and Lazarus", he definitely had something to offer to every single fan.
And I suppose in his own way, David Bowie wanted to ensure that he left his fans one final parting gift.
You see, David Bowie passed away three days ago - just two days after his sixty-ninth birthday. And to many, he served as a huge inspiration, a soothing voice, and a figure of being true to who you were, no matter how the world might perceive you. And best of all, while the world may have seen him as being incredibly famous, he was the last person in the world that would tell you that. I would even go to say that as daring and bold as he was on stage and in his studio recordings, in his private life he was more humble and private.
So private he was that the world seemed stunned when it was revealed that cancer was the cause of death - a disease he had been fighting for eighteen months prior. He had kept it a secret from everybody except his inner circle, and I get the feeling that was what he wanted.
He wanted to go out his own way...and his final music video was almost as if he was saying farewell and thank you to those who stuck by him.
I'll admit...the world of music will not be the same without him.
Rest in peace, and thank you for leaving your gift of music with all of us.