Stephen D’Evelyn: David Bowie and the Intimacy of Imagination

Like so many countless fans, I was stunned to hear the news yesterday morning of David Bowie’s death. It has been very strange listening to his music in between meetings yesterday. His baritone is so alive. Somehow offering another homage of how he took me through tough times and made sweet times sweeter seems a bit frivolous or trivial. It is hard to know what to say.
I’ve had to sleep on it.
Now in the cold dark of day with the tributes stll filling the airwaves, I think I know one reason Bowie means so much to me. A commentator on BBC 1 television yesterday commented that Britain is far more tolerant today than forty years ago. He observed that Bowie ‘enabled difference’. The commentator pointed to Bowie’s courageous, outrageous fashion sense, flirtatious androgyny. I think Bowie also enables imaginative difference. Through his melodies and lyrics as well as his fashion, film, and art, he gives us new frontiers. Bowie joked about his constant artistic changes not being due to post-modernism as much as to ADHD. He made it all work–even when it seemed a car-crash something amazing emerged from the blaze. He enables difference of all sorts. Equality and diversity must have beauty, imagination, groove, and soul. Bowie’s differences keep us rocking.
I never met Bowie–a sound-check at Boston’s Orpheum theatre ahead of a gig on the Tin Machine II tour in the early 90’s was the closest I ever came–but the intimacy of imagination Bowie creates gives me courage. His songs take me to bigger bolder places where there’s still tenderness and bedazzlement. That’s increasingly rare these days. He opens the throttle on imagination. We will miss him terribly.


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