He was a Hero

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What can one say when you lose your heroes, the visionaries, the innovators, the musicians who change the way you experience something near and dear to your heart? We often say here that a day without music, for us, is like a day without oxygen.

For the past few days we have been trying to find the words to express what it means to lose David Bowie. And Dr. J demonstrated that sense of loss, of mourning while he struggled with the emotion of losing a musical hero.  It is alright to have no words to express what this means to you. It is proper and true to take a moment and thank about the music, the songs, the impressions that were made by such an adventurous artist.

So, instead of trying to write a memorial of some kind, instead of trying to write something like a reflective piece — how do you write a comprehensive career retrospective on someone like Bowie?  — You simply can’t.  We here at YTAA would like to share a version of a story that Art shared on his Facebook wall.

I was up late one night watching television in West Central Minnesota. We had recently moved from the farm where we only got four channels. Seriously. Only four channels. The town we moved to was small — 550 people.  Music discovery was based on the rare trip to a mall record store or Crawdaddy magazines. Sometimes both.

I had been very bored with the pop music on the charts. I spent a lot of time listening to Pink Floyd, Queen, The Beatles, The Rolling Stones, and early Kiss records. Suddenly the video for Ashes to Ashes came on the television. I think it was 1980.  I do not remember what the program was — I only knew that I was bored until the video and music started.

My mind was blown. My father who was up late with me did not understand any of it. He derided the music, the song… All of it. The lyrics, the visuals, the sound… None of it made any sense to him. But me — I was transfixed. It was like a lifeline to someone who was lost and had never known that they were lost.  I remember thinking – I have never seen anything like this.  I have never heard anything like this.  Before you judge me, let’s just say that where I lived – music on radio, on television, available in nearby stores was very limited.  I yearned for something new, some unique sounds, something I could call my own and would speak to my identity.

After that experience.  I could not sleep.  The visuals, the color, the sound, the texture of the instruments was unlike anything I had ever seen or heard before.  I tracked down as much Bowie as I could find. What a voyage of discovery. That moment of playing each record was like the introduction to another new nation of music. The contours of sound discovery with each new record numbed me. How could one artist explore such different sounds?

I remember the first time I played Hunky Dory, The Man Who Sold The World, Ziggy Stardust, Diamond Dogs, Young Americans, Low, Lodger, Station to Station…

The world was opened up to me. The unique approach to song craft was unlike anything I had experienced up to that time. It was not simply glam rock — it was sonic adventure. And after that I became so much more adventurous in my musical choices.  I became interested in alternative music.  And I felt that the questions I was asking about music, lyrics, identity, acceptance were represented by this musician and the music that he made.

Thank you sir for all of the adventures.

We can be Heroes
We can be Heroes
We can be Heroes
Just for one day
We can be Heroes

We’re nothing, and nothing will help us
Maybe we’re lying,
then you better not stay
But we could be safer,
just for one day

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