Thursday, 21 January 2016

"It's only forever, not long at all..."

Normally a time when resolutions have been made and possibilities seem endless, 2016 has resigned itself to an awful start. David Bowie and Alan Rickman both died at 69, both to cancer. I read somewhere how an O.A.P. offered their opinion on Bowie: "He was only a bleedin' pop star." Even today, someone on the dreaded FB commented "Not like he was saving lives or changing the world!"

To some extent, that's true. And yes, it can seem ridiculous to pour out such adulation and emotion when there's a refugee crisis, people starving and wars breaking out every five minutes. Just because these unknown people didn't release fifteen albums, it doesn't render their situation any less worthy or tragic. Much like when Princess Diana died, there have been many accusations that the public mourning is simply emotional vampires getting their fix.

In the pit of Mordor that is Twitter, certain Katie Hopkins-wannabes (who shall remain nameless) want to hold people to account over their outpouring of emotion. "You're not related to Bowie, therefore you shouldn't be upset/cry etc." Can't we find emotion enough for, say, a dead celebrity and a dead immigrant? Surely one is not more exclusive than the other?

Bowie was a zillionaire who lived a full and decadent life (one presumes). He traveled the world, lived the high life. There is room to embrace all. To get angry and upset about the loss. To inform people to 'get upset about this, but don't get upset about this' is ridiculous.

But then 'the world of arts' will always be first in line for the chop because it's all so disposable; populated by the pretentious, self-obsessed and indulged, right?
Art cannot cure cancer. If your house is burning down, an MP3 file is not going to be of any help - but to say it doesn't save lives is a fallacy. At my lowest points I turn to music, books and films as they have a 'saving' quality. They can pull you out of the pit you're in. Even if it's just a diversion to give your mind some space for five minutes.

Over the past week I've considered what creativity means to me. Yes, I loved Bowie's music, the films. But looking beyond that, at his working methods and style of motivation... that's where the inspiration lies.

There will be those who will say "But what about when he did THIS..." Whether it was narrating Peter and the Wolf, or appearing as the adult-form of the boy from "The Snowman" (OF COURSE that boy grew up to be Bowie!), his prime directive seemed to be that he didn't wait for approval. He didn't try to second guess what people wanted.  He was pleasing his own creative desires. That's not to say that some left-field projects didn't make you scratch your head, but it wasn't for us to figure out. Wouldn't it be fantastic if all creative endeavors could be like this?

Success and money buy you the luxury of not caring what others think. But a bigger implication could be that you get lazy and self-indulgent. Or, heaven forbid - HAPPY. There's an old creative myth that if you're too content, the inspiration and motivation dries up. So for Bowie to repeatedly turn out classic after classic was a huge achievement (Whether you believe the myth or not).

Not to paint Bowie as some Demi God, he wasn't without his own insecurities. He questioned himself and his work; his motivation. (Fascinating to hear Bowie discussing this: (skip to 3.20 mins in) He inspired, but also required inspiration himself - two of the biggest influences being Anthony Newley and Scott Walker. Bowie was idol-worshipped but take a listen to Bowie's response to a birthday message from Scott Walker. Somewhat surprisingly, Bowie had moments when he felt like giving up. It's well-documented that (creatively) the late eighties was not a good time for him.

Even when his life was drawing to an end, he created. To create from death seems paradoxical. To wrestle some beauty from it is even more unfathomable. His final album is dark. The videos bleak and twisted. When 'The Next Day' sprang from nowhere a few years ago, there was sudden panic that Bowie was dying. "Where are we now?" feels like a farewell. Three years on, he releases a new album - and dies two days later, to 99.9 percent of the world's shock. Death isn't for us to control - perhaps the only way he could claw some 'power' back was to orchestrate his creative closure?

In the video for 'Lazarus', Bowie scrawls away, seemingly with sheer panic that he couldn't get all of his ideas out of his head before time is called. Some never have the opportunity to start, let alone fulfill their potential; to have such a reach into people's lives. Bowie's accomplishments are, more so than ever, a source of incitement, encouragement and a positive reminder to blaze our own trails.

"I’m struck by how the whole country has been flung into mourning and shock. 
Shock, because someone who had already transcended into immortality 
could actually die. He was ours.
Wonderfully eccentric in a way that only an Englishman could be."
- Kate Bush

"He always did what he wanted to do. 
And he wanted to do it his way and he wanted to do it the best way. 
His death was no different from his life - a work of Art." 
- Tony Visconti

"A lot of people that I know are bugged with the idea that they have got 
to have an audience, or they have got to be liked. 
I think the more that you fall into that trap it makes your own 
life harder to come to terms with, because an audience appreciation 
is only going to be periodic at the best of times. 
You will fall in and out of favor continually. I do not think 
it should be something one should be looking for. You should turn 
around at the end of the day and say I really like that piece of work, 
or that piece of work sucked.
Not, was that popular or wasn’t it popular?" -- David Bowie

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