Dancing, re-inventing, and connecting: the magic of music
Like many people around the world today, I was sad to hear of the passing of David Bowie. Although I cannot count myself among his many die-hard fans, it is clear that the world has truly lost a musical legend. The radio has been filled with his tunes, and as I sat in a cafe this morning to get ready for a mid-morning meeting, the rhythms and lyrics of some of his many songs were in the air and in the essence of the atmosphere. The stuttering “Ch-ch-ch-ch” in “Changes”, “But I try…I try…modern love gets me to the Church on time…” ,”Ziggy plaaay-ed the guitar…”. Hmm, maybe I knew more of his music than I first gave myself credit for.
One of the interesting things the day has brought up for me is who I thought of when I heard the news – kind of like an intriguing insight into the way big events allow us to pause and think of our own experiences.
I thought of my friend Diana. In college she and I made a 360-minute, 4-cassette mix tap and I am certain David/Ziggy featured on our self-styled “Definitive Mix”. At the time – now over 20 years ago – I probably even had less of an idea of who Bowie was, but he was one of Diana’s favorites. She was enlightened about Britain in a way that I wasn’t; she also introduced me to Absolutely Fabulous and I will be forever grateful to her for that.
I thought of my lovely hair stylist Michael, whom I saw on Friday. We often talk about music, the gigs he’s looking forward to going to, the new bands and artists he is keen to discover. I don’t know if he liked Bowie but if I had to guess I’d say yes.
I thought of our friend Adam, who rocked a Ziggy outfit for our friend Chris’s 30th birthday party. The lightning bolt over the eye and the see-through black mesh top and all – I can picture it so vividly, even though that party was now over ten years ago.
And in my research, I was reminded of one of my own favourite Bowie songs, his duet with Mick Jagger, “Dancing in the Street”. I would have been eight, going on nine, when it was released, as part of Live Aid. It was 1985, and I had an obsession with Duran Duran. Anything that had to do with a collection of cool rockers – many of them from across the Pond (from England, where the Queen lives!) – feeding, helping, or being the world really got me excited.
To watch the “Dancing in the Street” video today, and revisit the two of these skinny guys wiggling their hips and rocking out, encouraging us that it doesn’t matter what we wear, just as long as we are there. It was high-energy, it was global – they called the cities out, in all their glamour: “Philadelphia, PA…Baltimore and D.C. now…don’t forget the Motor City!” It sounded so great: there would be laughing and singing and swaying and sweet records playing. It was about being together, even when apart, shimmying and shaking, wearing a loose, seafoam-colored shirt and the world’s smallest belt (Mick) and a dressing gown over a leopard jumpsuit (David) and having joy from dancing out in the open of some deserted parking lot near an industrial estate. Or at least that’s what I made of it. Those guys, those words, that beat, that music – it was magic to my nine-year-old ears. And to my 39-year-old’s ears, today.
I have no doubt that his version of “Dancing in the Streets” might not even make many of Bowie’s fan’s Top 10 songlists – but that’s the power of his re-invention, his dynamism, his chameleon-like ability to adapt and change. What a gift. It also, probably, confirms my unique and eclectic taste in music.
The comment I’ve heard several times today is people expressing regret that they won’t get to see David Bowie live in concert, whether for the first time or “one more time”. It’s an example of one of those things that we think of and want to happen. And then the world conspires to make it impossible.
My main take-aways at the end of a cold wet Monday where another realm gained an artistic genius:
- Seize the day. Take the opportunities you have to do the things you want to do, whether that’s seeing a favourite artist live, trying something new, making a move that you want to make, telling something important to the people that matter to you. We don’t know what we get beyond this moment…and now this moment.
- Let’s dance. Put on your red shoes , and grab a guy or a girl, and dance in the street and enjoy the sweet sweet music in the world. Together is better.
- Turn and face the strange. What would get you out of your comfort zone but headed in a direction of more fun or greater purpose? What would it be like to paint a lightning bolt on your face and go there, to re-invent yourself if needed to be more of who you want to be?
Find your joy, and RIP, David Bowie.