New at The Avid Listener: Katherine Reed, “From Ziggy to Blackstar: David Bowie’s Musical Masks”

Fans of The Avid Listener have probably been wondering: when will TAL weigh in on Bowie? Wonder no more, dear readers, for Katie Reed has blessed us with a lovely and insightful essay about Bowie’s musical reinventions, and it’s chock full of fabulous Bowie videos.

Here’s a teaser: “Perhaps the most memorable images of David Bowie feature the flaming red mullet and custom Kansai Yamamoto wardrobe of this final Ziggy Stardust concert. In a 2002 interview with Terry Gross, though, Bowie bristles at the suggestion that his career consisted of a parade of dresses and makeup: “That was for eighteen months, actually . . . which out of a career of nearly forty years is not very long.” He isn’t wrong about that, but the image of Bowie as a glammed-up chameleon persists in the days after his death. As the man himself said in March 2004, “I’ve always felt bemused at being called the chameleon of rock. Doesn’t a chameleon exert tremendous energy to become indistinguishable from its environment?” Bowie, of course, rarely fit into his environment. Countless memorials and think pieces since his death on January 10, 2016 pay homage to the performer’s groundbreaking gender bending and sartorial reinvention. What many forget, though, is that these masks weren’t just physical—Bowie reinvented himself musically, picking up new styles and idioms as it suited him.”

Read the entire essay here, and please share widely and often. If you are headed to the annual meeting of the Society for American Music, seek me out to talk about TAL!

The Avid Listener: Listen. Write. Discuss. Repeat.



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