The Plastic Hippo

January 12, 2016


Filed under: History,Music — theplastichippo @ 3:00 am


A variety of worthy academics engaged in a futile analysis of popular culture claim with some certainty that Rock and Roll was born on January 10th 1956 when Elvis Aaron Presley recorded Heartbreak Hotel in Nashville – Happy 60th birthday Rock and Roll.

The heartfelt outpouring of genuine grief at the passing of David Bowie is a basic human reaction but says more about the audience than the performer. It seems that we cannot accept that our heroes are mortals just like us and even if they provided “the soundtrack of our lives”, it does not exempt them from running out of time. The heartbroken can take some comfort by understanding that although the body and mind have gone, the soundtrack remains immortal. The transition between iconoclast and icon or the subtle shift from controversy to legend can only be defined by death.

In 60 glorious Rock and Roll years, each generation has worshiped an idol that reflected rather than created the society of the time. Elvis was sex and ostentatious wealth, John Lennon was anger, rebellion and withering sarcasm and David Bowie gave voice to isolation and the confusion of identity in a rigid world. If a truck driver from Tupelo, a scallywag from Liverpool and a pale youth from Brixton can make it big, then with a little bit of talent, any of us can. These idols spoke for us and fought our battles with great courage. We have no wish to be reminded of human frailty much less of the inevitability of demise. Gods do not die eating a burger on the john (allegedly) or gunned down outside the Dakota building.

Elvis went from raw talent to an entertainer and ended up a fat man in a suit playing Las Vegas. On being informed of his death, John Lennon reportedly said that Elvis died when he joined the army. Lennon went from talented boy band to artist and is now forgiven for some of his more self-indulgent and pretentious output. Bowie was different. He started as an artist and remained an artist with Rock and Roll being almost incidental. His influence on “popular culture” cannot be underestimated but his influence on society is more profound. Openly questioning gender definition and encouraging freedom of expression all those years ago changed things for the better in so many ways.

Ignoring the dreadful copycat glam rock novelty bands of the 70s and the even more woeful New Romantic waifs and strays of the 90s, Bowie`s musical contribution is remarkable in its depth and variety. Over five decades with changing personas and musical styles, everything he produced was at least interesting and most of it was very good. It is difficult to image another artist who could come up with catchy pop songs, heavy rock, blue-eyed soul, Euro synth, jazz, have a song performed on the International Space Station and create a final album portraying his own death. This was a class act.

However, like Elvis and Lennon, he is not a god and although he would probably appreciate the obvious love being expressed, he might not be so keen on eulogies from Presidents, Prime Ministers and Archbishops. His audience was the girl with the mousey hair, hot tramps and these children that you spit on.

David Bowie died on January 10th 2016 in New York City – Happy birthday Rock and Roll.


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