Music in the MTL

Tribute – Ain’t That Just Like Me

Resurrecting Bowie

Oh! You pretty things/don’t you know you’re driving your mothers and fathers insane?” Fitting lyrics for a sixteen-year old to write in a notebook. Beautiful lyrics for a woman-faced man to sing over a piano refrain.

When David Bowie died on January 10th of cancer at a young sixty-nine, to say it was a tough blow would be a laughable understatement. Who was it tough on exactly? Answer: Aging parents who loved Bowie records in the seventies; new wave New Yorkers; trans communities; queer communities; gender benders; cross-dressers; hip hoppers; rock n’ roll lovers; fashion industries; film buffs; pop culture aficionados; small-town teenagers writing song lyrics in notebooks. To name a few.

I put on Oh! You Pretty Things, the morning of January 11th, and I thought about David Bowie. My neighbor across the hall was blasting Heroes. When I went to get a coffee, the café was playing Life on Mars. Practically every local bar in town has been holding screenings of Jim Henson’s The Labyrinth.

Every media website and music platform has had commemorative, and reflective things to say about the influence of this omnipotent man. I feel compelled to add to the homage, if only because I was one of the millions impacted by his music and the life he shared with us.

Material surfacing has included 8 Ways to Celebrate David Bowie’s Life in New York City (you can thank The New York Times for that gem), or Vulture’s “…Must-Read David Bowie Tributes.”

Bowie supported charities like War Child, Keep A Child Alive, and Save The Children. Encouraging for those committed types, in the world of the five-minute-celebrity-marriage, Bowie made a marriage vow to another person and stuck by her for more than twenty years (the stunning Iman, an icon in her own right).

And then, ironies of ironies, he put out his twenty-fifth album, Blackstar, which included a single called Lazarus. With that, Bowie passed away.

Now, if anyone knows the Bible story of Lazarus (from which Bowie took the parable and re-enacted his own version in the music video, wearing bandages and button eyes), it is taken from the New Testament (John 11) and it goes a little something like this: Jesus is wandering around and finds out his buddy has fallen ill. Jesus says, “This sickness will not end in death.” (John 11:4) But when Jesus goes to see him, Lazarus is already in the tomb. He sees his friends crying, and the verse says, “Jesus wept.” (John 11:35, the shortest verse in the Bible, is a go-to for church kids made to memorize Bible passages).

(John 11:43-44) “Jesus called in a loud voice, “Lazarus, come out!” The dead man came out, his hands and feet wrapped with strips of linen, and a cloth around his face. Jesus said to them, “Take off the grave clothes and let him go.”

The lyrics of Bowie’s Lazarus, go like this:

Look up here, I’m in heaven
I’ve got scars that can’t be seen
I’ve got drama, can’t be stolen
Everybody knows me now…
Oh, I’ll be free
Just like that bluebird
Oh, I’ll be free
Ain’t that just like me?

(Is that bluebird line a reference to Lou Reed’s bluebird in Candy Says, the song written for the beautiful transgender Candy Darling, who passed away at twenty-nine from lymphoma?)

Life begets death, and Bowie’s life, a stellar, evolving ascension, only brought him closer toward an implosive climax, a beautiful curtain call. Bowie in death has been veritably resurrected as an indelible figure. He’s left his fingerprints everywhere. Like Lazarus, he has been resurrected by our inspiration, our memories, our love. He lives.

Ceilidh Michelle is a columnist for Bandmark, a published author, and a musician. She has contributed to CULT Montreal, Vancouver Weekly, Montreal Rampage, CKUT, Quip, Social Coast, and more. She studies Creative Writing at Concordia University.

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