Thursday, 13 October 2011

A Lesson In Self-Respect.

Sometimes I wonder whether David Bowie can do no wrong.

Perhaps he has a lot to thank for his origins on a far away planet – from which he descended to brighten up our world in the late 60s – as they have served him well in avoiding any of the usual human slip-ups or falls from dignity and grace that many aging stars of his generation or later, seem unable to resist succumbing to.

With this observation, I seek not to clarify how amazing Bowie’s musical contributions are (for this is now as widely accepted as the laws of science), or indeed how the revolution he bestowed upon us in the 1970s continues to reverberate around the music and fashion industries with a deafening roar. No. Today what I hope to get across is that it’s the decisions that he has made since this time that make him so worthy of respect and admiration, whilst simultaneously ensuring that all that he achieved before seems even better.

As we are constantly made aware these days by musicians who are somewhat less dignified with their aging, the 21st century is a time with temptation and empty promises around every corner, waiting to trap and lure the icons of yesteryear. I need only mention the names of Iggy Pop, Axl Rose and Joan Jett in order to paint an image of degrading advertisement deals, shameless flogging of a band that's been unrecognisable and irrelevant for twenty years and copious amounts of plastic surgery – paths all too often taken by the once adored, successfully undermining any reverence or respect that they once commanded.

It is at the opposite end of this spectrum that we find Bowie, holding music with the highest respect and refusing to let any foolish endeavours of later life tarnish the genius that we know of his younger years. This is a lesson that other aging musicians should definitely take heed of, for in their greedy desire to maintain a level of prominence, they could well be ruining their legacy in the process. I personally hold Iggy Pop as the prime example of this – his crimes being all the more hard to swallow due to how incredible he once was as the frontman of the protopunk movement. What is such a shame is that now, even though I herald ‘Lust For Life’ as one of the best albums of the 1970s, I can barely listen to it for fear of conjuring up terrifying images of a lost old man selling his soul, dignity and self-respect for £25 million under the slogan of “Get A Life”. An innovator of punk rock selling car insurance? What a disgusting and disgustingly modern state of affairs. Next we'll be seeing the man who once snarled down the camera shouting "God save the Queen, a fascist regime" dressed in tweed, proclaiming that we sell-out like him and buy 'Country Life' butter "because it tastes the best".

I don’t think it is necessary to point out that this is not something that you’d catch Iggy’s close friend David Bowie doing - his dignified silence over recent years speaking volumes. Gracing us with his presence on only a few occasions, usually in situations which serve to remind of his position at the forefront of all that is still cool in the music industry. His appearances onstage with Placebo, Arcade Fire and Moby have been a nod to the new generation of gifted and respected musicians. (A far cry from a special guest slot on ‘X Factor’, I think you’ll agree).

His complete and utter success in growing old gracefully and gloriously is prominent when one notes his absence from the chat show circuit, within which we find a continuous stream of autobiography-holding, greatest-hits-promoting, reunion-tour-plugging shadows. Instead we catch Bowie say, in a photo shoot for Q Magazine, Kate Moss dangled round his neck, looking as though the pleasure is all hers.What Bowie has succeeded in doing is creating the blue print for how people can not only grow old in a way that will give their previous achievements all the more respect and appreciation to new and old generations alike, but also how to live your life as fulfilled and content as possible. It is easy to see that Bowie is no longer hung up, unlike so many of the prime offenders in this category, on the power and money driven fame game. Releasing new albums only sporadically, often under the radar of the commercial market – holding artistic satisfaction as the main aim, and refraining from making anything at all if not suitably inspired.

Admiration for David Bowie in the year 2011 is as prominent as it has ever been, and rightfully so. Respect for himself has got him a long way, now enjoying retirement cuddled up to a supermodel wife and bringing up his young daughter in New York, undoubtedly able to look back on his extensive career with few regrets and much pride. This of course works both ways, for it is thanks to this self-respect and dignity that we – as fans – can continue to love and enjoy David Bowie’s artistic offerings, happy in the affirmation that he 100%, absolutely, positively and certifiably was and is as incredible and other-worldly as we ever believed him to be.

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