I was lucky enough to work with David Bowie on several TV projects. He was a great collaborator -- gracious, witty and generous. David was also a cheerleader and champion for other artists. I don't think he had a jealous bone in his body.
That was David the man.
Bowie the musician was the most influential figure to appear in rock music after the 1960s. Without Bowie, there would be no Lady Gaga or Nirvana, no U2 or Madonna.
More on David Bowie:
- David Bowie dead at 69
- Gallery: David Bowie 1947-2016
- David Bowie: 10 moments that defined his career
- Gallery: A David Bowie discography
- Remembering David Bowie ("CBS This Morning")
- David Bowie's unaired "60 Minutes" interviews
- Performance of David Bowie's "Lazarus" musical becomes a memorial
- Astronauts honor "Starman" David Bowie from space
Bowie appeared when the standard for rock & roll credibility was authenticity. Musicians were expected to sing their diaries, to perform in the same jeans they wore off stage.
Bowie did not value authenticity one bit. He knew that as soon as a performer stepped into the spotlight, he was in theatre. Why not use all of the tools and resources theatre offered?
He denied his songs were about himself. Like an actor, he moved from role to role.
He became famous as the glam rocker Ziggy Stardust.
He achieved superstardom with the blue-eyed soul of "Fame" and "Young Americans."
At the middle of the Cold War he moved to Berlin and made "Heroes."
In the 1980s he sold out stadiums with "Let's Dance."
With every metamorphosis he lost old fans -- and gained new ones.
Bowie would never be pinned down. But over the decades and through all the changes, something remarkable occurred. The audience found sincere, empathetic and at times universal emotion in the music of this quick-change artist.
After 9/11, Bowie opened the Concert for New York City with a fragile solo version of Simon & Garfunkel's "America."
On "New Killer Star," he sang of "the great white scar over Battery Park."
On tour in 2004, Bowie had emergency heart surgery. After that, he stopped playing concerts and giving interviews.
Then, on January 8, 2013, his 66th birthday, he surprised the world by releasing new music, "The Next Day." Bowie wrote about the sad passage of time, the difficulty of human connection. It was like getting a letter from a long-lost friend.
This January 8th, on his 69th birthday, Bowie gave us another album, the wonderful "Blackstar." On the title song, Bowie sings:
"Something happened on the day he died,
Spirit rose a meter and stepped aside."
Two days later, David Bowie was gone.
There is a new Bowie musical running off-Broadway. He worked on the book and music in his last year. "Lazarus" is the story of an alien -- "The Man Who Fell to Earth" 40 years later -- who has been living in seclusion in a penthouse above Manhattan, waiting to die. At the end he makes a masking tape rocketship, lies down in it like a coffin, and dreams he is returning home as his soul leaves his body.
It was his last surprise. David Bowie was an autobiographical writer after all.
More from Bill Flanagan:
- A tribute to Allen Toussaint
- Bill Flanagan on "A Change Is Gonna Come"
- Bill Flanagan of the grammar police on "I and me"
- The Beatles: You say you want a revolution?
- An appreciation of Pete Seeger
- The Everly Brothers: The sweetest DNA of rock and roll
As a postscript, here is Greta Gerwig dancing in the streets to Bowie's "Modern Love," from the film, "Frances Ha." Your turn!