Bob Schwartz

Tag: David Bowie

March for Our Lives

And these children that you spit on
As they try to change their worlds
Are immune to your consultations
They’re quite aware of what they’re goin’ through
David Bowie, Changes

To the NRA, the politicians in their pocket, Fox News and all the others who bully and lie as a regular self-serving practice:

These astonishingly active and articulate children you dismiss as naïve pawns of special interests are anything but. They are smart and caring voters and voters-to-be, they are inspirational organizers, they are brave warriors for peace, common sense and truth.

They are the edge of a wave of American humanity that will wash you away. If you believe your own nonsense and are too stupid to be afraid of being sidelined and replaced, you should be very afraid. Nothing happens without struggle, and you may think this is a struggle that you are bound to win. But if you are students of American history, you know how this eventually goes. If you are students of history, watching (or more likely ignoring) this extraordinary moment, you would know that you are history. The arc of history is long, MLK said, but it bends toward justice.

And admit that the waters
Around you have grown
And accept it that soon
You’ll be drenched to the bone.
If your time to you
Is worth savin’
Then you better start swimmin’
Or you’ll sink like a stone
For the times they are a-changin’.
Bob Dylan, The Times They Are A Changin’

“Didn’t Occur to Me That David Bowie Could Die”

David Bowie - Heroes

Of the thousands of messages after David Bowie’s death, none seemed truer than this from a fan: “Didn’t occur to me that David Bowie could die.”

There are rooms in our life/culture houses for people and things that joyed us a little or influenced us a lot. For many of us, the David Bowie room was pretty big. Even though we may not have visited that much anymore, we knew it was there, we knew what was in it, and we knew we would always find David Bowie there—getting older, as must be, but there.

Whether you call it re-invention or evolution, and even though most of us in any one version won’t be what he was in multiple versions, we could all share in the possibility of growing and changing. If the Rolling Stones have been doing the same thing for fifty years, David Bowie seemed not to be doing the same thing for fifteen minutes.

No lyrics excerpts here, no album recaps, no discussion of his life, loves, and death, all of which will be found in infinite number elsewhere today. But of all the tracks, especially for those unfamiliar with Bowie, it is worth mentioning Heroes. We can do anything.

Friday Songs

The Cure

2015 good or bad? Stupid question, because here it is now, as it is. On the plus side, you can put any search term in your Spotify and see and hear any tracks that mention the term in the title, album or artist. Like “Friday”.

Today is Friday. Friday is probably the second most used day in music. No contest that Saturday is first, but we’ll leave that for another post.

Here are some Friday tracks:

Last Friday Night (T.G.I.F.), Katy Perry – We don’t know whether in the future pop music historians will regard Katy Kat as a significant groundbreaking artist who moved music in directions no one had even conceived. We do know that she is massively popular and that her music embodies Pure Pop for Now People. T.G.I.K.

Friday Night August 14, Funkadelic – Funkadelic was not ahead of their time. They were their own time, past present future, combining the then with the now with the what will be, all on the Mothership. No boundaries here or on its album Free Your Mind and Your Ass Will Follow. Mark Ronson successfully revived James Brown style for the biggest hit of this year, Uptown Funk. I don’t hear anyone trying to revive Funkadelic, because they are always being born. If you don’t believe me just listen.

Friday On My Mind, The Easybeats – A great slice of 60s pop. Later covered by David Bowie for his Pin Ups album covering some of his favorite oldies.

Current Favorite Friday Song: Friday I’m In Love, The Cure – The Cure bridged the changing landscape of pop from the late 70s to early 90s. Some say they were the beginning of emo, most of us don’t care because labels don’t matter and it’s only in the grooves. Maybe this irresistible hit from 1992 is sprightly emo: jangly guitar and upbeat message about the freedom of Friday. Thank you Robert Smith.

I don’t care if Monday’s blue
Tuesday’s grey and Wednesday too
Thursday I don’t care about you
It’s Friday I’m in love

Monday you can fall apart
Tuesday, Wednesday break my heart
Thursday doesn’t even start
It’s Friday I’m in love

Saturday wait
And Sunday always comes too late
But Friday never hesitate…

I don’t care if Monday’s black
Tuesday, Wednesday heart attack
Thursday never looking back
It’s Friday I’m in love

Monday you can hold your head
Tuesday, Wednesday stay in bed
Or Thursday watch the walls instead
It’s Friday I’m in love

Dressed up to the eyes
It’s a wonderful surprise
To see your shoes and your spirits rise
Throwing out your frown
And just smiling at the sound
And as sleek as a shriek
Spinning round and round
Always take a big bite
It’s such a gorgeous sight
To see you eat in the middle of the night
You can never get enough
Enough of this stuff
It’s Friday
I’m in love

Bowie and Gaga: The Shoulders of Giants

Bowie Gaga
If I have seen further, it is by standing on the shoulders of giants.
Isaac Newton

Scroll below today’s news about Egypt or the NSA or dozens of other significant stories and you will come to the contest between the new singles from Katy Perry (Roar) and Lady Gaga (Applause). Which is Number 1? Which is better? Listen if you want, or don’t. Life goes on either way. But music and excellence matter, so a related note.

Depending on whether you want to go back centuries or decades, we are now in the nth generation of popular music. Individual songs or entire genres, music and the styles that go with it are invented, perfected, synthesized, inspired by, borrowed; there is some balance between the entirely new and the entirely old.

The question is whether a listener can take a current artist at face value, without reference to what came before, without knowing (in Newtonian terms) what giant shoulders are stood on, or whether a listener should be aware of the influences, precursors, originators. This becomes particularly important when the earlier or original version was, once it is experienced by comparison, simply better art.

David Bowie’s extraordinary artistry can be summed up in two points.

He has six albums among the Rolling Stone 500 Greatest Albums of All Time. And each of these is created in a different style than the others.

Which brings us to the second point. Aside from creating superb music, Bowie devised the process of total artistic reinvention in pop—not only in musical style, but in performing personality. Up to that time, the assumption was that fans wanted a degree of continuity in their stars. The Beatles had broken through this assumption with a few changes during their short career, but Bowie smashed artistic continuity entirely: Ziggy Stardust, The Thin White Duke, etc. A review of his album covers is a roster of these personas.

Above is an image of Bowie as Ziggy Stardust. Next to it is an image of Lady Gaga from her current ARTPOP album period (all caps from her; it’s that important).

All artistically painted faces are not related, of course. But Gaga acknowledges David Bowie as an artistic influence. This presumably explains the various Gagas during her brief career: the artist dressed in meat, the artist emerging from a plastic womb, etc. Change all the clothes and makeup you want, and say all the right things that make you seem like an artist (Bowie, by the way, let his style do his talking), and it still comes down to music.

So, Gaga fans, if you are reading this, listen up, literally. While she may be copying only his approach to style and not his music, nothing she has done measures up artistically to Bowie. This isn’t a song-by-song, style-by-style comparison. It is a reminder, not just about Gaga but about music new and old, that tastes vary, but excellence doesn’t. With the release of the rest of ARTPOP, maybe there will be some artistic gems. Gaga is actually a talented singer and performer, so it is possible.

But for the moment, and pending further developments: Gaga, we’ve seen David Bowie, we’ve heard David Bowie, and you are no David Bowie. Or Isaac Newton.

(For fans of Isaac Newton, who may be wondering why his picture isn’t included, below is something from his CALCULUS period.)