Monday, 11 January 2016

David Bowie RIP

The melancholy mood that has affected 2016 so far continues, with the death of David Bowie confirmed this morning.

David Bowie was an early interpreter of the work of Jacques Brel in English, at the height of his Ziggy Stardust pop star fame,  performing both My Death live and the track Amsterdam as a B side of a single from his Pin Ups album.

It would be impossible to imagine a comparable pop star from today even considering releasing material as startling as this.

Bowie was apparently influenced by Scott Walker, whose English language covers of Brel popularised his work to a massive anglophone audience, and for many these remain the definitive versions of the songs.

Where Walker may have been among the first, Bowie was certainly among the finest interpreters of Brel, his version of My Death to these ears surpassing the original. Bowie combines theatricality and vulnerability in the song, while never losing its bleak poetic heart.

Meanwhile, Amsterdam holds its bawdy charms in the hands of Bowie, its themes perfectly in keeping with his early 70s persona.

Ziggy Stardust was of course influenced by the troubled rock 'n' roll star Vince Taylor, who underwent an apparent messianic breakdown on stage, while at the time a massive star in France.

Prior to the commercial success of the early 70s, Bowie was heavily involved in contemporary theatre, studying mime with a teacher influenced by Marcel Marceau.

Berlin rather than Paris may have been the European city that Bowie was associated with the most,but even during the recording of one of his most famous tracks he kept his francophone fans happy, with a recording of the song Heroes in French.

Bowie was a massive star in France as he was elsewhere, his 80s style particularly influencing the Paris club scene. While very much the quintessential Englishman, Bowie's music and style left a massive influence on France.

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