by Jane Tawel
Musings on David Bowie, Alan Rickman, Neil Young, Joni Mitchell, Meryl Streep, and Christopher Walken
January 16, 2016
First let me say that I believe I am correct that none of these people have died yet, except I’m pretty sure David Bowie died. Oh, and Alan Rickman died too. If I am wrong please feel free to comment to that effect but you should know first that my definition of getting old is that “you don’t remember if someone is dead or not”. By next week I’ll probably not be sure if Bowie died or not. I’m pretty sure Paul Newman died. And that makes me sad.
Everyone has been “honoring” David Bowie and Alan Rickman with tears and Facebook RIP’s and sorrow to the extent of “I was privileged to live at the same time as Bowie” posts and tee shirts. I imagine women in labor this past week couldn’t wait to be the first to name their little ones Bowie or Starman or Snape.
I liked Alan Rickman as an actor and I grew up with a few David Bowie classics but I didn’t post anything about them because I haven’t posted anything about them in my entire life up until now, so I’m not sure why I would suddenly proclaim and declaim about them when they died. Just not my style maybe — not my flavor of the week to do this, though next week if someone famous dies, I might. This morning I was watching the down- right adorable and cute James Corden and Adele “Karaoke Car Ride” Youtube — so if one of them dies this week, I might online mourn them. That would make me sad. If I remembered that they died.
What I mourn is the sad passing of important careers and historic moments. That is– careers I consider amazingly important and historic moments of my life, of course. Mourning people means I miss them. I lost them. I’m sad because they aren’t here anymore. That’s a bit tricky with famous people since I didn’t know them and I can still listen to them or watch them any time I desire. What we mourn with the passing of famous people is the passing of the time or event of our own lives they represent. For instance, when my daughter Justine was still at home, she and I liked Alan Rickman movies. My husband Raoul likes David Bowie songs and had Verity and Gordon put some of Bowie’s tunes on Raoul’s “Favorites”. I messaged privately Justine this week about Alan Rickman’s passing. He was a connector and I was sad he was gone because mostly I was sad Justine was gone and those years with her and Rickman as Snape were gone. I’m sad Bowie is gone because he represents a time to Raoul when my husband was young and could dance to weird 80’s music. This means of course I am also sad that Fred Rogers is gone, and The Teletubbies are gone and Little Joe is gone and Audrey Hepburn is gone and Gilbert is gone. Because all those good years with good people I love are — gone. But back to Bowie and Rickman who are gone. (Right?)
I liked that fact that David Bowie was married to Iman. For 24 years! I have no doubt Iman is truly mourning the death of David Bowie. I liked Alan Rickman in the weird indies — “Snow cake” and “Bottle Shock”. I liked him as Snape until J.K. Rowling cheated and wouldn’t decide in the end if he was evil or good. Rickman played it so it could have gone either way — just like all our real lives– they could go either way. It wasn’t Rickman’s fault Rowling cheated us.
I was in fact shaped by the artistry and often profoundly meaningful lyrics of Neil Young and Joni Mitchell. Young is an amazing musician and if you haven’t heard his guitar riffs then you are indeed missing something. Don’t listen to him though if you prefer voices auto tuned. His is not.
I feel like posting some Neil Young music for you on Facebook — right now– so you can see how great his music is. Unless he just died. Then I’d feel hypocritical. After this blog and all that.
Joni Mitchell was concerned about the environment before anyone had heard the term “global warming” and she taught me in her songs that relationships are worth crying over if they don’t work out, not songs about giving the guy the finger and moving on to the next one.
When I saw Christopher Walken in Deerhunter I thought I would never get his performance out of my head. Checking…. Yep, it’s still there. And in my youth, Meryl Streep did more for strengthening the cause of strong, vibrant, talented women than Mother Teresa and Hillary combined. Acting as an art form took on a whole new meaning with actors like Streep.
Young, Bowie, Mitchell, Streep, Rickman, Walken — all of them had in common two things that I guess spoke to me — at least in the beginning, they went for Art, not for Fame. And they were all odd. Odd looking and odd acting. Like me. So I guess even though they were known artists, they felt like someone who could speak my language. The difference was –They just turned my language into art — and got paid for it. Of course fame happens– just like sh–. And once fame happens, well something usually — not always, mind, but usually — happens to art and oddity. Didn’t someone once say, “Fame corrupts and absolute fame corrupts absolutely”? Yep — synonym implied.
Perhaps art will never be the same now that it moves through the world faster than Florence Griffith-Joyner as byte files and lives like “Rocketman” mostly in i-clouds.(Yes, I know that’s an Elton John song not a Bowie song — speaking of odd artists I used to love who became famous….) (Is Elton John still alive?)
Perhaps art will never be the same now that we have twenty plus “producers” and we have marketing experts and we have focus groups and we have reality tv stars and we have more channels and musicians and actors than we could possibly ever know about. There is a lot to be liked about our brave new world and a lot to applaud. But that doesn’t mean I can’t facebook-mourn what “It” was and is no more. No matter what we gain in the world of music and cinema and media, we have lost something I can only describe as something tactile and patient.
There was something different about sitting in a room holding the source of music in your hands. There was something different about having a room filled with music that other people could (or had to!) hear. There was something different about fighting over who in the room had to get up to turn the channel. There was something different about having to wait until you got home to find out about it, having to wait until it came out to watch it, having to wait until it came on the radio to hear it. It all used to be something you felt you could hold and somehow it would hold you back. It used to require a waiting period and then — It was– like a surprise — like a sudden rainbow — like a gift.
There is something different about artists not caring about fame — not caring about anything more important than changing the world. There is something different about people being odd not because it got them noticed but because they couldn’t help it. I don’t know how to facebook the difference to make any difference in how people see things. I guess it doesn’t make any difference anyway. I have my memories and will mourn the passing of those moments spent in the company of family and friends and great people . And I’ll try to keep carving out new memories — with family and friends and new odd artists who maybe want to change the world as well. Or maybe artists who just want to change the moment. And that is a very nice gift to we commoners as well.
So here’s to all the odd artists still living (as far as I know). I guess I can’t include Adele any more. As odd that is. I think she’s still alive. Isn’t she?
One thought on “On David Bowie and Neil Young: Starman vs. Southern Man”
I think I’m one of them! A song lyrics writer, musical writer, Kindle book author, blogger, weird stuff all trying to get out there. I think the one that hit me the hardest lately was Robin Williams. When these people who are part of our life and don’t even know it, depart, it leaves a hole in our remembrance. Alan Rickman as Snape was fantastic. That scornful expression was so perfect. I’m really grateful we are here to comment on them.
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