I went to bed last night, thinking some idiot hacked David Bowie’s account, spreading a false rumor regarding his death. I woke up to the painful truth that the news was hoax; David Bowie was no longer with us. Like so many of you, this news hit me in the heart. I cannot think of another musician that was able to continually redefine himself as Bowie. What’s even more astonishing is that he was able to inhabit such a myriad of musical personalities, and play each role so convincingly. Whether he was creating 60’s mod-pop, defining the genre of glam rock, creating a blue-eyed soul and disco hybrid, riding the New Wave, or experimenting with electronica, Bowie proved a versatility that few (if any) other musicians could attempt with even a fraction of such success.
Bowie has managed the nearly impossible feat of being a relevant artists for three separate generations. As a result, the span of people who have been deeply impacted by his passing is amazing. On my Facebook feed, it’s as if politics didn’t exist. Today wasn’t about being in red state America or blue state America. Today, we were all Americans. Young Americans.
It would be easy for me to continue to singing the praises of Bowie, and what his music has meant to be personally. But this is not the time or place for that. Ghost of Blind Lemon is not a site devoted to British rock legends. No, GOBL remains, as always, a site devoted to music from Texas, and especially music from the Dallas/Fort Worth area.
So let’s rewind to 2002, when Bowie attended SXSW, hoping to find some acts worth adding to the Meltdown Festival in London. That’s where Bowie discovered Tim DeLaughter’s band, The Polyphonic Spree. Bowie added them to the festival lineup, and later toured with the band. I have no doubt that Bowie’s support helped the band gather an international following.
On the surface, the pairing of David Bowie and The Polyphonic Spree is quite the musical odd couple. Bowie’s work can often come off as moody (“Ashes to Ashes”, “Space Oddity”, and “Changes”, to name a few), and he’s always trying to push the musical envelope. Polyphonic Spree, on the other hand, is eternally happy and is steeped in symphonic sounds. At their core, however, Bowie and Polyphonic Spree share more in common than one might think on the surface. Polyphonic Spree’s live shows are over the top spectacles, something that Bowie knew a thing or two about. Polyphonic Spree’s sound is unique to the point of sticking out like a sore thumb in the musical landscape. Fortunately, Bowie was always attracted to musicians who dared to blaze their own path, and Tim DeLaughter has always been one to defy convention. The more one thinks about it, Bowie and The Polyphonic Spree are a perfect pairing of acts that revel in their uniqueness.
Leave it to Bowie to manage a way to leave a lasting legacy in even the Dallas/Fort Worth world of music. I leave you with Polyphonic Spree’s rendition of David Bowie’s “Five Years” for your listening pleasure. And to Bowie, may God’s love be with you.