The Distinctive Style of David Bowieby Shruthi Venkatesh May 24 2018, 4:19 pm Estimated Reading Time: 2 mins, 59 secs
It’s been almost two years since David Bowie ripped a gigantic hole in our hearts. And no wonder he still lives within the 25 studio albums, film roles and the image that he brought to life during the 69 years on the planet. That’s what makes David Bowie an international pop star. Bowie was 24 when he already had four albums under his belt as a solo artist and his invention of ‘Martain Glam Persona’ remained a one-hit-wonder. His excellent ‘The Man Who Sold the World’ and ‘Hunky Dory’ has become a bit of a cult among his fans.
Bowie had difficulty in finding his position with music as he wasn’t a naturally gifted singer. Drawn early to “movement and music” classes in school, Bowie’s teachers called his idiosyncratic style “vividly artistic,” but only rated his voice as “adequate”. Bowie wasn’t “particularly fond” of his own voice, he revealed in an interview, and he didn’t set out to put himself in the spotlight- at first. His passion to write down songs and compose music was something he was always good at but the world wasn’t lucky enough to be a part of it. “I thought that I wrote songs and wrote music and that was sort of what I thought I was best at doing. And because nobody else was ever doing my songs, I felt, you know, I had to go out and do them”, he says.
He finally arrived with his very first successful release of ‘Ziggy Stardust and the Spiders from Mars’ in 1972 which led Jarvis Cocker comment “that he’d been trying to be successful for almost 10 years” and that people didn’t realise his worth. In later years, Bowie charged ahead with a theatrical bent and fearlessness. He honed his vocal skills and achieved mastery over his haunting baritone, while also learning to move into a powerful tenor range. To witness the isolated vocal tracks “Life on Mars” shows his tremulous voice has real quality and range. In “Space Oddity”, his voice comes bit thin in the verse, hitting its full stride in the chorus. Three years later, on “Starman” from Ziggy Stardust, we hear more confidence and control in the vocal track. He marked his achievement in the ‘Golden Years’, where he explores his full range from deepest Baritone to Falsetto.
His voice inevitably waned with age and the sickness of his final years, but he never lost the ability to imbue a song with maximal emotional range, making the ragged vocals on his last album-“Lazarus,” some of the most gripping in his entire body of work. The legend passed away surrounded by his family at New York after an 18 month battle with cancer. In 2017, ‘Last Five Years’ –a documentary album leaves an image of an aged, blinded Bowie in bed, singing “Look up here man, I’m in danger, I’ve got nothing left to lose.” Several artists performed songs by Bowie during concerts in the weeks following his death, including Elton John, Madonna, Bruce Springsteen and Red Hot Chilli Peppers. Numerous cities across the world also held events to remember Bowie. To aspire and to be inspiring is something one could learn much from Bowie’s career.