There’s something tragically romantic about the passing away of rock and roll stars. They rarely seem to die of natural causes. Death by auto erotic asphyxiation, alcohol abuse and acute depression seem commonplace. Throw in the occasional suicide and the end seems to guarantee many of them legendary status. A glamorous lifestyle does bring the risk of excess. But I have another point — does the supremely talented artiste have a death wish? Does he know instinctively that he’s performed his greatest works at a very young age and it’ll all be downhill from there? At 27, did Jim Morrison have anything left in the tank after those four iconic albums? Why live an ordinary life after that? Or Janis Joplin at 27? Or Amy Winehouse at 28? Or Jimi Hendrix at 28? It’s almost like Kurt Cobain was created to destroy Glam Rock, build a Seattle sound called Grunge in its place and then he was gone also at 27. (I’m being cynical when I say, would he have been the ‘immortal genius’ he is considered today if he hadn’t died). Bob Marley, dead at 36, is much revered and still mourned for basically 10 hit songs. Would we have eulogised him as much if he’s just been a washed up, aging Wailer?
Illustration /Uday Mohite
As the rock saying goes, better to burn out than fade away. But two older icons who never burnt out or faded way were defeated by cancer recently. Motorhead’s Lemmy Kilmister and David Bowie aka Ziggy Stardust. Growing up, I will admit I wasn’t much of a fan of Bowie’s music.
Apart from the soulful Golden Years and the boppy Let’s Dance, Ground Control to Major Tom, fell into the category of ‘hangover songs’ - meaning after a night of heavy drinking and some Bade Miya kebabs, you drowsily woke up to Bowie’s drawl in your teenage ears.
But Bowie was a unique character. Multi-faceted and constantly creating.
And he was a collaborator, he wrote songs for other bands, jammed with Mick Jagger (Jerry Halls’s ex, for all you Justin Bieber peeps). Freddy Mercury and he connected superbly for some work.
Coincidentally, I’m going retro in my musical inclinations — not just in taste, but in technology. I’ve invested in a turntable and have been on a record buying spree.
And I’ve been feasting on Bowie’s songs. Thirty years later, I’m amazed at his lyrics and range of music.
Any man who can write tunes, that at once appeal to the rock star, the rapper, the lover of ‘rona dhona’ songs and rhapsodies, is a musician I respect.
This was a man absolutely true to himself. Secure in his own skin. Comfortable in his chameleonhood. Absolutely unwilling to compromise on his own constant re-invention.
Bowie changed genre as rapidly as he changed garb.
And I suppose, I will sound painfully old-fashioned when I say this, but they don’t make them like him anymore.
Chameleons adapt to their surroundings. But they also change form.
Take a bowie, David.
Rahul da Cunha is an adman, theatre director/playwright, photographer and traveller. Reach him at email@example.com