Pop Rocks: Bowie gave fans music, artistry, ideas

David Bowie performs during a concert celebrating his 50th birthday in 1997 in New York. Bowie, the innovative and iconic singer whose illustrious career lasted five decades, died Sunday. He was 69.

I have a few go-to hits I like to sing in the shower. Whiskey River. Good Golly Miss Molly. Husker Du’s Makes No Sense At All. But no song gets as much Spray Time with Steven attention as David Bowie’s Moonage Daydream. I’m pretty sure my kids know the first verse of my shampoo-addled rendition by heart. They probably think it an odd and abstract musical choice. To me, nothing feels more natural.

 

I don’t remember the first time I heard David Bowie. I know that by the time I bought into the post-punk disco of Let’s Dance, I was already a fan and follower. He’s an artist that feels like he has always been a part of my life. And while I did not always agree with some of the decisions and directions he took – I never was jazzin’ for Blue Jean – I found each album produced interesting and engaging enough to at least explore for a few spins. Those that missed were interesting. Those that hit have become indelible parts of not only my internal playlist, but culture as well.

When Bowie’s early catalogue was re-released on CD in the early ’90s, there was a great ad campaign that went with it. It read, and I am paraphrasing here: “These are the songs that influenced everything you love, whether you know it or not.” That, for me, is the perfect Twitter description of Bowie and his approach to music.

Moving from pre-punk to pop to soul to clanging experimental, Bowie understood and embraced the artist’s need to evolve and explore new ways of confounding expectations. That’s a lesson I’ve tried to take to heart.

Bowie died Sunday after an 18-month battle with cancer, just two days after his 69th birthday and the release of his latest album, Blackstar.

So today, I am sad. Sad that there won’t be any more music – although the recently released Blackstar is a pretty amazing parting gift – and sad fans won’t have the opportunity to see one of rock’s consummate showmen one last time.

But I am also grateful. Grateful for the music, the identities, the ideas and the artistry. We won’t see his like again soon.

 

HAPPY BONES. It is, I believe, important for an artist to take their time. There’s nothing more painful than art that seems incomplete, ill-considered or dashed off. It’s particularly true in music. Far too often I see acts perform before they are prepared or, even worse, enter the studio.

That, quite clearly, is not the case for the Augusta act Happy Bones.

The performance project of one Judge Shawn “Woody” Wood, the Bones, in its many varied forms, has been gracing Augusta stages since the mid-1990s. It’s an act that local musicians have always thought highly of, that fans have followed from one bar gig to the next but has flown, somewhat criminally, below the radar.

My thought has always been that Woody felt a certain sense of satisfaction, writing and performing in the very finite universe of his own creation. It was, to be sure, a comfortable place and one I certainly enjoyed visiting from time to time. But it seems my assumptions were wrong.

Woody had plans. Plans and aspirations. He has something significant he wants to share and it extends far beyond the broken-couch blues often associated with him. He is, in fact, an artist of impressive musical means and now, with the very first Happy Bones album – a record some 25 years in the making – he’s ready to prove his point.

One of the more interesting aspects of Happy Bones is how difficult it becomes to pinpoint and describe its very distinctive sound. While always cohesive, the eponymous album draws from a variety of musical sources.

There is acoustic folk and hard riffing, deep funk and Southern boogie. There are nods to hip hop, hippie rock – nearly any classic pop form capable of telling a substantial story. It’s an amalgamation of musical styles and, more particularly, those musical cues that have proved most popular and influential in Augusta music. It’s the Edison Dregs. It’s Riff Raff Torpedo.

That’s not so surprising as the current incarnation of the Happy Bones band includes some significant Augusta talent, including the semi-legendary Jo Bones, one of this writer’s favorite bass players. The music is also punctuated with guest appearances that I feel should be kept Star Wars-style surprises.

The future of this independently recorded and released record is still very much in the air. Such is the case for the working musician.

Woody will, I feel certain, spend considerable time and effort promoting and playing, doing his level best to ensure this collection of songs is heard. I wish him the best of luck as it’s a record that deserves an audience.

 

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