Ari Braverman (Guernica) talks to philosopher Simon Critchley about the death and legacy of David Bowie

Guernica: Why do you think David Bowie’s music has maintained its appeal for so long—and do you think it will last now that he’s gone?

Simon Critchley, author of <i></dt><dd class=

Simon Critchley: It will. No doubt at all. On some level when you’re talking about music you have to be vulgar and be able to say, “This is just really good.” A lot of people did what Bowie did, a very few of them before Bowie (Tony Newley, Syd Barrett) the rest of them after, but no one for me came anywhere close to being as good. There’s something about the craft and quality of his work that just makes it better. The technical proficiency of what he did with his voice, given his vocal range (he didn’t think his voice was good enough, back in the day), is often overlooked, the amount of time he spent in the studio just trying to get the right effect. Robert Fripp shares this story about watching Bowie in the studio, trying for hours to get his voice to match the emotion in the music. That’s complete artifice, complete inauthenticity, and yet he’s able to hit those feelings in a way no one else could. And what you feel when you hear that is something simply strong, powerfully true. That’s where he achieved his magic. (more…)

Few artists have excited me like David Bowie. As a teenager, the punk electronica of Low, the bombast of “Heroes”, and the angular anthems of Lodger helped me acclimatise to living alone in the city.

There was also the glacial paranoid chic of Station to Station, the throbs and screeches of Scary Monsters (and Super Creeps), a panorama of the 1980s New York, to say nothing of the postmodern murder mystery, 1. Outside. (I can still remember the thrill of hearing songs from the latter album opening David Lynch’s Lost Highway and closing David Fincher’s Seven.)

All of these records, alongside those by Bowie collaborators Brian Eno, Iggy Pop, and Lou Reed, became the soundtrack to my undergraduate years. Neurotic, pulsing, existential pop.

I found in David Bowie a fantastic empty signifier, a blank canvas ready and waiting for me to impose and inscribe my obsessions. During these years he became my idol. Not simply someone to identify with, but an idea or an image that I aspired toward: a striking embodiment of the power of art to transform ourselves and the world around us.

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