Wednesday, January 13, 2016

An icon of the boomer generation, David Bowie, has died

When I talk of the music of the baby boom generation, I don't think of music listened to by baby boomers. Simply listening to music does not make a generational claim on that music. I'm a baby boomer and I, and many of my friends, like Beethoven and Chopin but that fact does not make their music the music of the baby boom. I believe most folk would agree.

But refer to the music maker Chuck Berry and the argument changes. In this case, many would argue Berry wrote the music of the boomer generation. If you believe that I believe you are wrong. Chuck Berry was born a couple of decades before the baby boom. Beethoven was born in 1712; Chopin was born a century later in 1810. Chuck Berry arrived in 1926. More boomers may have listened to Berry but, as we have already agreed, listening to music by a generation is not enough to allow a claim on that music by the generation. More is demanded.

David Bowie           Photo by: Adam Bielawski Aug. 8, 2002
Which brings us to the late David Bowie. Bowie was born in 1947. He was a boomer who wrote  music listened to by boomers. Bowie wrote some of the earliest true music of the baby boom generation. Bowie was not only a singer and songwriter, he was a record producer, painter and actor. Bowie was a baby boomer Renaissance man.

Bowie's art is not just an intrinsic part of baby boom culture, his creative endeavors permeate pop-culture across generational divides. I don't believe many were surprised when Commander Chris Hadfield, a Canadian-born baby boomer astronaut, performed a cover of Bowie's Space Oddity while circling earth in May 2013. The video is posted on You Tube until Nov. of 2016 after an agreement was reached with the copyright holder (not David Bowie.)

David Bowie, a baby boomer icon, will be sorely missed.

For some other thoughts on the death of a cultural icon, follow the link to the article David Bowie and Me posted in the Arts and Culture section of the Harvard Gazette. Five Harvard academics, possibly all boomers, share their personal reactions to Bowie's death.

The first piece is by professor James Wood, a boomer born in 1965 in England. The professor wrote: "I loved Bowie’s work, and in many ways it defined my youth, as it did the upbringing of anyone who grew up in Britain in the 1970s and ’80s."

Well said, professor.

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