When I was in my mid teens I discovered David Bowie. I don’t even remember through what anymore but the more I heard, the more I loved him. I remember liking his Let’s Dance and China Girl songs in the mid 1980s but the obsession for him didn’t start till a little later, when I was about 17. I had a friend of Chinese descent and every time she entered my room while I was in boarding school, I’d switch on China Girl for her… Evil, but fun. 🙂 What I loved most, however, was his 1970s work and I played that all the friggin’ time. Somewhere in the 90s the obsession waned and I lost track of Bowie but I still listen to his music to this day.
A few weeks ago I heard an exhibition about Bowie and his work, called “David Bowie is”, was coming to the Groninger Museum here in the north of the Netherlands. Not only that, we also had a chance of getting free tickets! Groningen is about 3 hours away from where I live but only a little over an hour away from our holiday cottage. So, of course, off we went to see the exhibition! We did so on New Year’s Eve.
It was amazing – a real multimedia experience with interviews, videos (music, films, parts of concerts) but also showcasing his artwork, sketches, storyboards for videos, his costumes and handwritten lyrics to his songs. I was able to take a quick picture of the lyrics to one of my favourite songs of his called “Rock ‘n’ Roll suicide” from his 1972 Ziggy Stardust album.
That song was very special to me when I was in my late teens/early twenties and depressed and clueless as to what I wanted to do with my life (do I even know now?). When he sang… “Oh no love! you’re not alone / You’re watching yourself but you’re too unfair / You’ve got your head all tangled up but if I could only make you care / Oh no love! you’re not alone / No matter what or who you’ve been / No matter when or where you’ve seen / All the knives seem to lacerate your brain / I’ve had my share, I’ll help you with the pain / You’re not alone!” … I really did feel less alone.
My kids didn’t really love the exhibition (Bowie is a bit too avant-garde and otherworldy for them) but my husband really liked it and I was just blown away by it! It really showed what influenced Bowie, how he reinvented himself every time. He is an artist on all fronts: singer, writer, composer, perfomer (acting and mime and stage persona impersonator), painter… truly amazing how he choreographed all aspects of his performances and songs and personas. What especially shines through is that he was always searching for ways to express himself and to only try and do things he loved and was passionate about. He follows his heart, he constantly tries to be who he wants to be, he always pushes his boundaries and won’t be dictated to. It’s something I wish I was able to do more and I admire in others when they do that to any or some degree (yes, Richard Armitage, talking to you and your choice to do Hannibal – athough I don’t love the show, I do admire what you did in it!). I don’t have to like everything Bowie (or Armitage) does, but I do admire bold choices and going against the grain. I think I have become a David Bowie fan all over again!