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RIP Ziggy...

Don-- just curious... what was it about Bowie that made him special to you?

In 1974, on my 12th birthday, my brother bought me a few albums, one of which was Diamond Dogs - the rare one, with the folding album cover - and the music just resonated with me. Rebel Rebel was the earworm that reeled me in, but my dad had also bought me a new stereo (with headphones, for which I'm eternally grateful, and, unbeknownst to my parents, so were they), and I listened to that album over, and over, and over - for some reason, I found the "Chant of the Ever Circling Skeletal Family" fascinating - even today, it's so obscure it doesn't have a Wikipedia entry. Then, just a year later came Golden Years (another earworm) and Fame which, despite its popularity, was pretty far out there. So Bowie got me with both the normal *and* the weird, and I eventually worked my way back to Space Oddity (everyone does), and then when I was a freshman in college, he released its "sequel," Ashes to Ashes. - so that's a period of six years right there, and those are six pretty formative years. There was *lots* to draw on from the past, even when I was only 12, and he kept coming out with different sounds going forward, which held my interest. Let's Dance was his big sellout which came out in 1983, right before I got my undergraduate degree, but sellout or not, I liked it because there was something very "off" about the music (same reason I like Samuel Barber today - even the beloved Adagio for Strings is written in Phrygian Mode (we're discussing "modes" over on the Leonard Bernstein thread)). Bowie, for me, was a combination of the familiar and the exotic, in just the right doses (my good friend, five years older than me (who was also the guy who got me into wine) was also a Bowie fan, so that also helped in terms of influence).

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Thanks Don. Your views on music intrigue me. I'd like to subscribe to your newsletter.

Bowie wasn't always my cup of tea (see the "Skeletal Family" tune Rocks references above), but he sure cranked out some of the most unique and sometimes iconic works in rock music.

One of my faves:

He once said: "I think fame itself is not a rewarding thing. The most you can say is that it gets you a seat in restaurants."

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Seeing as though we've been discussing Modes in the Leonard Bernstein thread, I wanted to point out that Lazarus, David Bowie's final single, is written with the melody 100% in Aeolian Mode (which happens to contain the exact same notes as A Natural Minor (i.e., all the white keys on the piano going from A to A), which *also* happens to contain the exact same notes as a C Major Scale (i.e., all the white keys on the piano going from C to C). I'll explain why this second point is important.

The harmony (i.e., the bass) of the song is also in Aeolian Mode, so it's A minor against A minor, which makes it sound so hopeless and sad. But then, in the part where he's standing up and dancing (where the vocals say "By the time I got to New York, I was living like a king,"), while the melody was still in Aeolian Mode, the harmony - while it remained mostly (not fully) in Aeolian Mode - shifted from A minor to mostly C major (*), lending a brief, upbeat, reminiscent feeling to the piece: That's the only part of the piece that has a remotely happy sound; however, the closing, descending scale on the saxophone (how could Bowie's final single *not* end with a saxophone?), when he begins to shuffle backwards into the closet, violates the norms of this song and plays some black keys in the process during its final, descending scale - would you expect anything less?

Note that Bob Dylan's "All Along The Watchtower" is also in Aeolyian Mode, and you may even hear coincidental bits and pieces of it in this song.

(*) Bowie also cheats a little bit when he sings "There I used up all my money," drifting down from E-Natural to E-Flat, but that's more for variation than violation.

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