Remembering David Bowie

It feels like I’d only just got to know him.

“You really must go and see the David Bowie exhibition,” I was told when I was in Melbourne in November. And so despite the fact that I was on a flying visit, I did the seemingly impossible and crammed four exhibitions into 24 hours. One of them was the David Bowie exhibition at the Australian Centre for the Moving Image.

On tour from London’s Victoria and Albert Museum, this spectacular exhibition offered unprecedented access to objects from Bowie’s own archive, from original stage set designs and handwritten lyric sheets to album artwork, rare film footage and, of course, all those outrageous costumes.

It was a complete celebration of his life and work, from his boyhood in Brixton to his trailblazing career fusing music, film and video, fashion and performance. Apart from being lost in the moment as so many well-known soundtracks brought back a cavalcade of memories, I was struck by Bowie’s chameleon-like ability to reinvent himself, from being a cabaret entertainer in the late ‘60s to a pioneer of glam-rock and subsequently an innovator in electronic music and new media.

And now Major Tom has gone to meet his maker. The legendary singer, songwriter and actor, who died on Sunday aged 69, had released his latest album, Blackstar, only last week. It appears to have been a carefully orchestrated farewell, with one of the tracks, Lazarus, opening with the lyrics, “Look up here, I’m in Heaven!” Bowie had kept his cancer secret from all but his closest family.

His loss has been keenly felt around the world. I think British TV critic, Kathryn Flett, summed it up best when she wrote in The Telegraph, “It wasn’t just about the music: it was his style, his soul, and the challenge he posed to the order of our times.”

Bowie is reputed to have said on his 50th birthday, “I don’t know where I’m going from here, but I promise it won’t be boring.” With Bowie in control of the starship, it will most likely be anything but.

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