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David Bowie (1947 -) is a British musician, record producer, arranger, actor and visual artist. Originally David Jones, apparently he changed his surname to avoid confusion with the popular Monkee of the time, Davey Jones.
Most would agree that Bowie is in a rare league of iconic rockers, including the likes of Elvis Presley, Mick Jagger, Paul McCartney, John Lennon, Michael Jackson, Bob Marley, Madonna and Elton John.
His best music synthesizes existing idioms to create something fresh and often exploratory. And because of his considerable talent, his musical explorations rarely go off the grid.
Bowie the philosopher, if you like, also takes us to new dimensions often passed over by status quo thinkers. His song “Starman” (1972) ponders the idea of extraterrestrial life and its potential impact on humanity.
There’s a starman waiting in the sky
He’d like to come and meet us
But he thinks he’d blow our minds
There’s a starman waiting in the sky
He’s told us not to blow it
Cause he knows it’s all worthwhile
And in “Loving the Alien” (1984) he sings:
Believing the strangest things
loving the alien…
Meanwhile, Black Tie White Noise (1993) looks to the meeting of spirit and the body, a topic that sometimes scares away so-called intellectuals who think they’re smart but really are quite narrow-minded:
Where the flesh meets
the spirit world
Where the traffic is thin…
You’ve been around
but you’ve changed me
In Bowie’s heyday the press often depicted him as “going away” from this world into some kind of creative journey and then “returning” whenever he produced a hit single.
There might be some psychological truth to this, as found in “Little Wonder” (1997):
Enter Galactic, see me to be you
It’s all in the tablets, Sneezy Bhutan
Little wonder then, little wonder
You little wonder, little wonder you…
Sending me so far away,
so far away…
Not unlike the Hindu Shiva-Shakti dyad, Bowie plunged into cross-dressing before this was considered chic in the music industry.
But there’s more to Bowie than meets the eye. Connecting him to religion and spirituality is far from spurious, considering his interest in parapsychology, as found in “Sound and Vision” (1977):
Don’t you wonder sometimes
‘Bout sound and vision…
I will sit right down,
Waiting for the gift of sound and vision
Within Asian systems paranormal abilities are known as siddhis, and in Catholic mysticism those which come from God are called called interior locutions, insights, perceptions and private revelations.
Bowie himself, however, is often critical of organized religion, as expressed in this chant from The Buddha of Suburbia (1993), released several years before the Catholic sex-abuse lawsuits hit the media:
Sex and the church
Sex and the church
Sex and the church
And the church
And the church
Bowie might someday be regarded not just as a musician but as a visionary or futurist. Considering the looming global water crisis the following scenario from “Looking for Water” (2003) doesn’t seem too far off:
Silver leaves are spinning round
Take my hand as we
go down and down
Looking for water…
I’m looking for water
Looking for water
I’m looking for water
Looking for water…
Pythagoras linked musical harmony to cosmic order, while Orpheus used his lyre to wrest his wife Eurydice from the underworld lord of death, Cerberus. But like Lot’s wife, and against a dire warning not to look back while escaping, Orpheus foolishly cast a glance backward, losing Eurydice forever.
This story speaks to the wisdom of accepting and trusting in the future, an idea summed up in Bowie’s tune, “Changes” (1971):
Turn and face the strange
ch ch changes…
time may change me
but I can’t trace time
Bowie has also ventured into acting and composing soundtracks for film and video games. For some time he hosted a lively, free internet forum called “Discourse” at davidbowie.com, which now charges membership fees.
Although criticized for being cheap when it comes to charity, Bowie replies
I can never make my mind up, I’m so f***ing flippy floppy. I can see both sides of everything and it’s really awful. Source » “DAVID BOWIE – BOWIE’S CHARITY STRUGGLES” at contactmusic.com
Cheap or not, for his considerable import as an artist he was awarded the 2008 Andromeda Award at earthpages.org.
Around 2004 Bowie suffered a heart attack and underwent emergency surgery. Since then he’s understandably kept a low profile, appearing here and there, and endorsing his son’s 2009 “Moon” movie.
All that changed when on his 66th birthday he released a new album, The Next Day (2013). Keeping true to form, one of his videos for the record upset the Catholic League. And so far it’s the fastest-selling album of 2013.
Other interesting things about Bowie:
- he was offered but declined a knighthood
- his actual religious views remain somewhat mysterious
- he just wants to make records now (and not give concerts)
- he’s apparently vowed never to do public interviews again
Earthpages.org’s Very First 2008 Andromeda Award!
Related Posts » Nineteen Eighty-Four
- Caitlin Moran on TV: Whenever pop is ambitious, it’s thanks to Bowie (thetimes.co.uk)
- David Bowie … Heroes, 1977 (frithstreetpost.com)
- David Bowie is (tonicdaily.wordpress.com)
- David Bowie – Five Years, BBC Two, review (telegraph.co.uk)
- Bowie’s back – 8 January 2013 (paulsmith.co.uk)
- David Bowie’s TV appearances: a history (guardian.co.uk)
- David Bowie talks like a chimney sweep from Mars (telegraph.co.uk)
- Ricky Gervais on David Bowie: ‘We chat about music and comedy’ (digitalspy.co.uk)
- The Multiple Readings of David Bowie (loveandlifeproject.com)
- David Bowie Swipes The Catholic Church In The Next Day Video (noise11.com)
Boy George (George Alan O’Dowd, 1961- )
In the 1980′s this lead vocalist from the pop group Culture Club followed David Bowie‘s lead by cross-dressing and generally combining big business with political statement.
The single “Karma Chameleon” touched on spiritual themes, as did his less commercially successful later work.
In the 21st century he remains an outspoken critic of figures like Madonna, although he’s virtually gone from an 80s big shot to a new millennium dark horse. In 2008 he served four months in prison for the assault and false imprisonment of Audun Carlsen.¹
I only mention George here because, in his day, he did have something to say.
- Boy George Is The Dharma Queen (noise11.com)
- What do Boy George and Mississippi in 1870 have in common? (southinpopculture.com)
- Boy George: My shock diet saved me from self-destruction (metro.co.uk)
- Boy George Takes On “I Wanna Be Your Dog” By The Stooges [Listen] (wxrt.cbslocal.com)
- Karma karma karma karma karma chameleon (blackmarketbabyblog.wordpress.com)
- Two Drawings of Boy George (expertspages.com)
- Boy George: lean, completely clean and ready for classy Meltdown (standard.co.uk)
The Beatles were a British pop group founded in Liverpool in 1960. The original members were John Lennon, Paul McCartney, George Harrison and Pete Best, replaced by Ringo Starr in 1962 (originally Richard Starkey).
“Love Me Do” was their first UK hit. This was followed by a string of hits, creating the international phenomenon of Beatlemania in 1964.
Most of the Beatles’ repertoire was officially penned by Lennon and McCartney, although their respective influence on individual songs varied considerably.
The band stopped giving public performances in 1966, turning its energy to the studio–specifically to the rock and roll classic, Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Heart’s Club Band. Their producer at the time, George Martin, says he had a significant impact on the outcome of this record.
The group split, bitterly, around 1970. Their last studio album, Abbey Road, was recorded with separate sessions being held for each member of the band. This was unprecedented and, to fans, seemed to indicate growing tensions among band members. George Harrison once said that McCartney told him how to play his guitar, which the guitarist resented. And issues over the growing presence of Yoko Ono were splashed over the tabloids and rock media, as was Lennon and McCartney’s growing acrimony.
The Beatles were no doubt fantastic musicians. But was there more to their success? The Swiss psychiatrist Carl Jung developed a psychological classification system based on four main types. For Jung, the whole and healthy mind strove to integrate the four types of thinking, feeling, sensation and intuition. Could part of the Beatles’ unparalleled popularity be a result their collectively representing Jung’s four archetypal types? Following this idea, Lennon would be the thinking type, Paul McCartney the feeling type, George Harrison the intuition type and Ringo Starr the sensation type.
The Beatles’ contribution to music will be forever etched in the history of mankind. The so-called Fab Four combined Rock and Roll, simple blues and complex jazz, as well as ‘lounge lizard,’ orchestral and international music forms. Even begrudging or, perhaps, sarcastically tinged respect is implied, for instance, in “Afraid” from David Bowie’s record Heathen (2002):
I believe in Beatles
I believe my little soul has grown
And I’m still so afraid…
After the Beatles’ breakup, Lennon released several records while residing in New York with his wife Yoko Ono. He continued to enjoy commercial success with songs like “Imagine,” “Mind Games,” “Whatever Gets you Through the Night,” “Give Peace a Chance,” “So this is Christmas,” and “Just Like Starting Over.” But Lennon became more than a mere rock star; he became an icon representing worldwide harmony and peace.
McCartney released a critically acclaimed solo album (where he played all the instruments) and formed the highly successful band Wings, continuing to be a prominent musical force in the 1970′s.
Harrison released the commercially successful All Things Must Pass in 1970 (including “My Sweet Lord” and “Isn’t it a Pity”) followed by several other albums. “Isn’t it a Pity” epitomizes the sense of loss over Beatles’ breakup and laments the end of an era. Sadly, pity turned into acrimony, as witnessed in Harrison’s 1973 tune, “Sue Me, Sue You Blues.” Starr has been in films and recorded singles and albums. His 1974 cover of the Sherman Brothers’ “You’re Sixteen” hit number one in the charts.
In 1995 the single “Free as a Bird” was released. This song was written and hastily recorded by Lennon in 1977. After Lennon’s passing McCartney asked Ono if the remaining Beatles could collectively add to any of Lennon’s unreleased material. Ono gave permission for this single but it arguably isn’t a true Beatles song because Lennon, himself, didn’t agree to its release.
More recently, many Beatles songs have been remixed and re-released, with debatable results. Myself, I prefer the original analog mixes sent to CD (AAD), although others might prefer the digital remixes (ADD).
- The break-up of The Beatles: An event that called a halt to an epoch (woodstockremains.wordpress.com)
- Interview: Historian says there was no Brando link to naming of the Beatles (examiner.com)
- Ringo Starr To Finally Get That Museum Exhibit We’ve All Been Waiting For (beatcrave.com)
- 12 Questions Google Assumes You Have About The Beatles (wxrt.cbslocal.com)
- John Lennon (chasepage.net)
- 12 Questions Google Assumes You Have About The Beatles (wzlx.cbslocal.com)
- Songs by John Lennon and Yoko Ono go Downtown to new publisher (examiner.com)
- 12 Questions Google Assumes You Have About The Beatles (wcbsfm.cbslocal.com)
- Life of Beatle becomes subject of comic (bigpondnews.com)
- Former Beatles Frontman Dies At 72 (huffingtonpost.com)
Dionysus was the Greek god of wine but with implications and influence far outreaching such a description. Son of Zeus and Semele, Dionysos was also known for his cult of frenzied followers who allegedly ate live animals and children during ecstatic orgies.
He’s been associated with the raw, natural, emotional and unconscious forces of the psyche, in contrast to the cool and orderly aspects of ego-consciousness, as personified by Apollo. He’s inspired artists (David Bowie) and philosophers (Friedrich Nietzsche) alike, with his ritual madness and ecstasy perhaps appealing to those fascinated by the outer limits of normality and living on the edge.
In contrast to benign deities like Jesus Christ and the Buddha, Dionysus didn’t take kindly to those who didn’t respect him. Myths abound where he severely punishes people, even children, for not honoring his apparently divine status.¹ Nevertheless, he’s one of the most widely represented deities in ancient art,² and was worshipped in the country and the city.
In Rome his counterpart was Bacchus, the Roman god of wine, invoked and honored at musical and dramatic functions. But there was a dark side to the Roman worship of Bacchus. When occupying Judea, the Roman authorities forces the Jews to wear ivy during the annual festival of Dionysus, and they threatened to destroy the Jewish temple and replace it with one dedicated to Dionysus if the chief priests didn’t hand over Judas Maccabeus.
¹ For instance, in the Homeric Hymn 7 he turns a ship full of pirates into dolphins for not recognizing his divinity. See Susan Guettel Cole “Dionysus” The Oxford Encyclopedia of Ancient Greece and Rome. Ed. Michael Gagarin. © Oxford University Press 2010. The Oxford Encyclopedia of Ancient Greece and Rome: (e-reference edition). Oxford University Press. Toronto Public Library. 13 August 2012 http://www.oxford-greecerome.com/entry?entry=t294.e384
² The Oxford Classical Dictionary, 1999, pp. 479-483.
³ The Eerdmans Bible Dictionary, 1987, p. 284.
- Dionysus (longhairedpoet.com)
- Dionysus Beauty: Branding, Mission Statement (flowingsparks.wordpress.com)
- Dionysus For President (turamber.wordpress.com)
- Blogosphere ~ Myth Monday – Dionysus and the Return of Hephaestus (rogueclassicism.com)
- Did Moses Exist? The Myth of the Israelite Lawgiver (freethoughtnation.com)
To some, existentialism is a bleak philosophical worldview. To others, it’s the only sane solution to a seemingly insane world. Existentialism most visible originator is probably Søren Kierkegaard but its best known proponent is Jean-Paul Sartre.
Sartre put a lot of very basic ideas into catchy phrases and hence made a celebrity out of himself. And this exemplifies what existentialism is all about: The creation of meaning and purpose from a human world said to be meaningless and uprooted from nature.
According to Sartre, one creates meaning and purpose out of absurdity by choosing to make commitments to an ideal or movement deemed worthwhile.
Unlike animals supposedly bound by stimulus and response, Sartre says a “gap of nothingness” that lies between our present and past means that we are able to choose. Thus we’re “condemned to be free.”
Existentialism was in vogue in the late 1950′s and 1960′s among beatniks, hippies, journalists and academics. As David Bowie rather amusingly puts it in the song “Join the gang” (1967):
Let me introduce you to the gang
Johnny plays the sitar, he’s an existentialist
Once he had a name, now he plays our game
You won’t feel so good now that you’ve joined the gang
Sartre’s stardom in the halls of academia was generally succeeded by Karl Marx in the 1970s, by the postmoderns in the 1980s, and by the likes of Wittgenstein and Noam Chomsky in the 1990s. Other famous existentialists include Simone de Beauvoir (1908-86) and Albert Camus (1913-60).
- Sartre Quotes at Thinkexist.com
- Day 15,463. Existential Rabbits. (grousendale.wordpress.com)
- Existentialism (socyberty.com)
- RCMP eyed philosopher Jean-Paul Sartre during tense Quebec political upheaval (theglobeandmail.com)
- Shortcutting… Existentialism (shortcutting.wordpress.com)
- A review of Jean-Paul Sartre’s ‘Nausea’ (tobagostars.wordpress.com)
- Canadian spies tracked philosopher Jean-Paul Sartre during Quebec political upheaval (news.nationalpost.com)
- Sartre’s Existentialism (egographia000.wordpress.com)
- Jean-Paul Sartre, the apostle of absurdity… (integratedcatholiclife.org)
Eurydice is a female figure in Greek myth. Among variants, the best known Eurydice in Greek myth is a tree or water nymph and wife of Orpheus. When the god Aristaeus tried to rape her, she fled to escape his advances. While fleeing she was bitten by a poisonous snake, died within hours and descended to Hades.
Her husband Orpheus later journeyed to Hades hoping to rescue her. Orpheus used the musical beauty of his lyre to wrest Eurydice from the underworld’s Lord of Death, the giant three-headed dog Cerberus. But like Lot’s wife, and against a dire warning to not look behind while escaping, Orpheus cast a glance backward, losing Eurydice forever.
The name Eurydice first appears on pottery in the 4th century BCE.¹ Although possibly orally present for centuries, they myth of Orpheus’ descent into the underworld to rescue Eurydice was not fully written down until the first century BCE, when Roman poets immortalized the tale through written verse.²
Plato criticizes Orpheus in his Symposium for trying to rescue Eurydice through music instead of sheer courage.³
In other variants of the myth Orpheus attempts to save Eurydice from Persephone. The scene of Orpheus attempting to rescue Eurydice is depicted in Neoclassical art, most notably by Nicolas Poussin.
Eurydice is also known as one of the daughters of Apollo.
¹ Richard L. Hunter “Eurydice” The Oxford Classical Dictionary, © Oxford University Press 1996, 2000.
² Sarah Hitch “Orpheus and Eurydice” The Oxford Encyclopedia of Ancient Greece and Rome. Ed. Michael Gagarin. © Oxford University Press 2010. The Oxford Encyclopedia of Ancient Greece and Rome: (e-reference edition). Oxford University Press. Toronto Public Library. 22 May 2012 http://www.oxford-greecerome.com/entry?entry=t294.e907
On the Web:
- Poussin, Nicolas: Landscape with Orpheus and Eurydice » http://artchive.com/artchive/P/poussin/orpheus_and_eurydice.jpg.html
- City Opera Revives Telemann (and Itself) with Orpheus (wqxr.org)
- City Opera’s Unabashed Underworld (nytimes.com)
- Seattle Opera’s ‘Orpheus’ is a love story for all time (seattletimes.nwsource.com)
- Review: Stagecraft dominates ‘Orpheus and Eurydice’ (seattletimes.nwsource.com)
- Rilke’s “Orpheus. Eurydice. Hermes” In 3-D (Created by Jeremy Gillam) (disquietreservations.blogspot.com)
- 3-Sheet, Lobby Banners Printed for Seattle Opera (washingtongraphics.wordpress.com)
Brian Eno (Peter George St. John le Baptiste de la Salle, 1948 – ) is a musician, composer, producer who’s generally regarded as the grandaddy of ambient music.
Born in Woodbridge, Suffolk, Eno started off as an art student but quickly got involved in the London music scene as a producer.
On his own records he’s best known for exploring ambient music. In the 1970s, before the New Age transformed ambient music into a highly marketable commodity, Eno released so-called environmental music with works such as Music for Films and Music for Airports. A series of ambient and experimental works followed, some solo and some in collaboration with others interested in the genre.
In the 1980s he recorded the haunting and ethereal Apollo: Atmospheres & Soundtracks, a soundtrack for the space documentary, For All Mankind. Eno also recorded solo rock and roll LP’s such as Here Come the Warm Jets, Taking Tiger Mountain and King’s Lead Hat. Less commercially successful than his ambient work, these are nonetheless admired by his more serious fans.
Related Posts » Rock and Roll
- 12 O’Clock Track: Cluster, “Sowiesoso” (chicagoreader.com)
- Ambient (music182.wordpress.com)
- Peter Broderick Spins Arvo Pärt, Brian Eno and More (wqxr.org)
- The Great Pretender (ladygarfunkel.wordpress.com)
Gemini (May 21-June 22) is the third and a spring sign of the zodiac, symbolized by the cosmic twins and associated with the planetary ruler of Mercury. Its element is air.
Astrologers claim that the twins archetype symbolizes a creative, dynamic union between complementary forces. If this archetypal pattern becomes negative and unbalanced (e.g. Cain and Abel, Daedelus-Icarus), the high-flying Gemini is susceptible to crashing.
Gemini has also been associated with the mythical dyads of Castor and Pollux (Greece), Romulus and Remus (Rome), and Gilgamesh and Enkidu (Babylonia), along with the philosophical concepts of Yin and Yang (China).
From its planetary ruler Mercury, Gemini is commonly said to be speedy, inspired, curious and perhaps unpredictable.
Prominent Gemini are Marilyn Monroe, Bob Hope, Clint Eastwood, Paul McCartney, Angelina Jolie, and former director of the CIA and then U.S. President George H. W. Bush.¹
In 1965-1966, a series of manned orbiting USA spacecraft were called Gemini.
The idea of Gemini has appeared in pop culture, most notably in music. The Moody Blues, in their 1981 comeback album, Long Distance Voyager, penned a top 20 hit called “Gemini Dream.” David Bowie, in his 2002 album Heathen recorded Norman Carl Odam’s song, “I took a trip on a Gemini Spaceship.” And the Japanese pop band Alice Nine released a studio album called Gemini in 2011.
In Canada, the annual awards for excellence in English language TV are called the Gemini Awards.
¹ For more, see http://www.vegaattractions.com/celebrity/gem.html
- Beauty For Your Sign: Gemini (May 21 – June 21) (bellasugar.com)
- Celebrate Geminis May 21 – June 20 marks Geminis Reign (psychicsource.com)
- 2012 ~ Mercury Takes the Helm (auntiemoon.wordpress.com)
- Gemini Rue: Collector’s Edition heading to bricks and mortar (vg247.com)
- #Gemini (krahft.wordpress.com)
- Compatibility (gothambadchick.wordpress.com)
- Gemini Rue Collector’s Edition Coming in February (escapistmagazine.com)
Mick Jagger (Sir Michael Phillip “Mick” Jagger 1943- ) is a British Granddad and former bad boy of Rock and Roll.
Together with Keith Richards, Jagger penned a string of hits for highly successful band, The Rolling Stones.
In the early 1960′s The Stones were seen as the tougher, grittier flip side to the Beatles’ cute and clean image and sound. Singles such as “Satisfaction,” “Ruby Tuedsay,” “19th Nervous Breakdown,” “The Last Time,” “Sympathy for the Devil,” “Brown Sugar” and “Honky Tonk Woman” have earned The Stones a prominent place in pop music history.
Interestingly, Jagger once claimed to be androgynous. Since then he was knighted for Services to Music in 2003 by the Prince of Wales.
- Rolling Stones Pinball Machine Gets Mick Jagger’s Approval (spinner.com)
- Mick Jagger Working on Solo Album? (beatcrave.com)
- Mick Jagger: Alive or Dead? (socyberty.com)
- Mick Jagger Will Play Grammys Without Rolling Stones (foxnews.com)
- Mick Jagger: Dead or Alive? (socyberty.com)
- Chris Jagger: He Knows He’s Not Mick, But He Likes It Anyhow (newsfeed.time.com)
- Mick Jagger to perform at Grammys (guardian.co.uk)
- No Sympathy For A Dead And Alive Mick Jagger (wcbsfm.radio.com)
- Mick Jagger Working with Dave Stewart (silentuproar.com)
- Knight (earthpages.wordpress.com)
Michael Jackson (1958 – 2009) was an American entertainer whose international celebrity status lead to his being known as the King of Pop.
Originally a member of the successful soul group, The Jackson Five, in an early TV appearance Ed Sullivan noted how he (the “little fella”) shone above his sibling who were also part of the act.
Jackson’s solo career took off in 1982 with the release of the album, Thriller, selling over 35 million copies. Part of its appeal, aside from slick musical arrangements by veteran producer Quincy Jones, was Jackson’s pioneering use of dramatic video.
Subsequent albums and singles such as Bad and “Man in the Mirror” did very well but never equaled the near-hysterical intensity of Thriller.
Like the Spice Girls, Britney Spears, Lady Gaga and other performers with outstanding talent, Michael has received much bad press and harsh criticism, particularly in regard to his use of cosmetic surgery and an alleged interest in archeology.
The media attacks intensified with his arrest on November 25, 2003 and subsequent trial over allegations of child abuse at his Neverland ranch. However, Jackson was found not guilty by jury.
Jackson’s untimely death on June 25, 2009, in Los Angeles took the world by storm. The shocking news contributed to internet crashes from excessive traffic, and the media covered the story with the same zeal that Jackson had helped to generate in his lifetime. Also, his record sales were at an all time high for the remainder of that year.
- For The Michael Jackson Fans (socyberty.com)
- The Michael Jackson XBoX 360 Kinect Experience (buzfairy.com)
- Teddy Riley to visit Korea with Michael Jackson’s nephew to support Rania’s debut (allthpop.com)
- Michael Jackson “Hollywood Tonight” Official Music Video (sugarslam.com)
- Teddy Riley to visit Korea with Michael Jackson’s nephew to support Rania’s debut (allkpop.com)
- “Second Annual Birthday Celebration for Michael Jackson Set for Chicago” and related posts (americanconsumernews.com)
- Doc in Michael Jackson case saves man on plane (cbsnews.com)
- Michelle Bella: Dr. Conrad Murray “Sounded Tired” the Morning Michael Jackson Died (thehollywoodgossip.com)
- Michael Jackson: The Experience (kymx.radio.com)
- Michael Jackson – Hollywood Tonight – Single review (unrealityshout.com)