Try as hard as you like to deny it, but today, Monday, January 11, the Internet has mostly been about the sad passing of David Bowie. There’s been a lot of easy stuff written today, a lot of content regurgitated in order to mine clicks from Bowie’s death. But there’s been some good stuff, too. Some of it has even been written here.
To begin with, a silly Internet mining tool that allows you to truly see the genius of Bowie: supbowie. Type in any number (from 1 to 69) and you can see what David Bowie was up to at that age. Perhaps the most impressive? Twenty-two, which is the age Bowie was at when he wrote his breakout hit, “Space Oddity.” It was also the same year he starred in a commercial directed by Ridley Scott. Me? At 22 I was unemployed and living in Nashville. But, you know, to each his own. If everyone matched Bowie, Bowie wouldn’t be Bowie.
FACT magazine unearthed this 2000 interview in which Bowie predicted the consumer-driven nature of the Internet, and how that would come to redefine the practicalities of music and musicianship. He predicted the increasingly fragmented scenes in music, even, and the way the idea of a cultural icon has faded with our ease of access to hundreds and thousands of artists. To see interviewer Jeremy Paxman’s reaction and rejection of Bowie’s (now prescient) comments on the power of the Internet, and the calm way in which Bowie discusses that power in the face of Paxman’s rejection, highlights Bowie’s singular intellect. It’s more and more rare that our public figures, especially the few who are as famous as Bowie, are capable of such heightened, polite discourse.
This probably has something to do with Bowie’s amazing taste in books, as seen in this list over at Electric Literature. We’ve made an effort to not include these sorts of things in this brief Bowie post, but this list is unique in that it plays against the uninformed opinion that Bowie was little more than his personae. The books here are varied and difficult, and show that the man was not only into creating culture, but being a part of the culture that had existed before him and was being created around him.
So it’s enraging when his memory is utilized to gain clicks, or purchases. The entire Internet was guilty of this, but the most obvious cashing-in on the man’s image was the above, now-deleted tweet from Crocs, the plastic shoes worn by Mario Batali. It’s an irredeemable tweet from an irredeemable footwear company, but it has been fun to imagine what kind of personality David Bowie would need to invent in order to justify wearing these rubber kitchen shoes.
Of all of the tributes to Bowie, in addition to the one linked above, Rob Sheffield’s Rolling Stone piece manages to transcend the basic clickbait of the chameleon-God narrative. The Web is filled with an outpouring of love for Bowie, and it’s easy to see it through cynical eyes as grasping for clicks. This is just a distillation of that.