I get to wear my other “mask” this Wednesday, for the first time since late February. To catch my newest readers up-to-speed: I’m in the music business, by trade. In addition to managing artists, I’ve also been playing trumpet and singing professionally for over 40 years. I have three bands of my own, including a David Bowie tribute act, in which I play the role of the late-great artist, himself. A man of many characters and masks throughout his unparalleled career.
Whether or not you’re a fan, and no matter from what generation you hail, you know his songs. Maybe a dozen, or two — even if you don’t know he was the artist — so entrenched into pop culture they’ve become over the last five decades. Those songs have been featured in over 700 movie and TV series soundtracks. Even songs that were never charting hits are instantly recognizable sing-a-longs on radio, in your grocery aisles, and karaoke bars. Most interesting — yet little known — was his radical “individualist” streak, which often came out in his lyrical references to Orwell, Jung, Nietzsche, (and many indirect Randian influences) . . . to name a few.
In a 1977 interview, Bowie remarked, “I can’t tolerate people who form, or be part of, movements. It should always come back to individuals.”
Amongst the thousands of eulogies following his unexpected death on January 10, 2016, even the Mises Institute weighed in, praising Bowie’s independent spirit and social-libertarian proclivities. He was also a fervent capitalist, seizing control of his career in the mid-70s following a string of bad managers. (This following a discussion with his friend John Lennon, who encouraged him to self-manage.) Among Bowies more well-known innovations, he even launched his own ISP in the 90’s, and made a stock offering of his song catalog.
We launched this Bowie tribute initiative two years ago, this month, and in all my personal research — digging deep into what I call the “Bowie Mind Palace” — I continue to be amazed at how many things he “did first,” how many trends he set, how many other platinum-selling artists he influenced and continues to inspire. He was also a man of books, having read thousands throughout his life. His longtime producer, Tony Visconti, told the story that even during the recording of his final album — recorded while he was terminally ill — he would show up at the studio each day with three to five books he was reading.
The entire music world recognized that he was smarter than the rest, was better read, and even if his contemporaries were “first” at some idea, Bowie would eventually seize it, make it his own, and do it better.
Our show on Wednesday is at an old drive-in movie theater in Henderson, North Carolina . . . outside . . . in the summer evening’s heat . . . social distancing protocols in place. Following our 90-minute set, Bowie’s classic film, Labyrinth, will be shown on the big screen. A David Bowie “double feature,” of sorts. Among the many wardrobe options I have to choose from, I’m going to go with his more dapper, 2002 look. Even in the summer heat and humidity, I’m going to wear a suit and tie. (The same as in the accompanying photo.) His memory deserves the sacrificial effort.
We’ll play all the hits, and a few deep cuts. Keeping with the theme of the evening, every song I’ve selected was featured in at least one major motion picture.
It’s just one show. But it will feel good to be normal again . . . “just for one day.”
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