Look out you Rock ‘n’ Rollers…
Pretty soon now you’re gonna get older.
–David Bowie, “Changes”
January 8, 2017, was a festive, restless day for David Bowie fans all over the world celebrating his 70th birthday. In the midst of the celebrations, I was reminded of two Bowie-themed Twitter posts that had floated down my timeline weeks ago. Since both are uplifting and will bring a smile or two, this is a good time to revive and share them.
The first is a tiny video about a furious infant who calms down within seconds of hearing the first notes of ‘Heroes’ followed by David’s voice (That Voice). The second is a snapshot of an Elder Stateswoman leaving a conspicuous message for anyone nervy enough to doubt her authority to do so.
These two extremes in age remind us of David’s cross-generational appeal to and influence with untold numbers of fans of all ages and types. For the moment, though, I want to focus on a single group of fans—the rock ‘n’ rollers who, with the passage of years, have indeed, gotten older. For this discussion, I’ll call them Bowie’s Baby Boomers.
What’s so Special About Baby Boomers?
The Baby Boomer generation is known to consist of babies born in the mid- to late 1940s—the end of World War II. What may not be as widely known, or at least recognized, is that the generation’s birth years extend all the way to 1964. This means that members of this generation will turn—if not already there—between 53 and 71 years of age in 2017.
David and virtually all of his pre-1980s band members are among this group and older. And so are thousands of his fans, including me, having entered the world two months before Starman.
Back in the day, the oldest of these fans filled the stadiums, packed the clubs, camped on and trampled the festival grounds wherever Ziggy Stardust, Aladdin Sane, the Thin White Duke, or just plain David Bowie went. The Baby Boomers were there from the beginning of his career, and throughout December 2016 proudly stood with generation upon generation of David Bowie fans in celebrating Blackstar’s being given its props throughout the world of popular music.
Admittedly, everyone thinks of their own generation as special and can point to unique qualities that make it so. But one of the things that makes the Baby Boomer generation special is the shared experience of coming of age with David Bowie as he led the charge—as is now generally acknowledged—in changing the face of popular culture and its music.
A Special Hero for a Special Time
Upon Starman’s departure, his fans turned to each other in their grief. Racial and class conflict had grown uglier and differences greater since the last time the Baby Boomer generation had been united in common cause.
But just as David foresaw, something happened on the day he died. Generational division dissolved, lines of communication reopened, shared values resurfaced, all in front of the world’s eyes on social media. The social media element added an especially fitting aspect to these events, given David’s prescient pioneering in virtual reality and online communication.
During those early days of coping and communicating, Giovanni Fazio, a musician and film critic for The Japanese Times, wrote a touching tribute asking and answering a question faced by many Bowie fans, not just his Baby Boomers. Here’s what Fazio said:
The Starman has departed for his home planet. I can’t imagine a world without David Bowie, but the strange thing is, he never was in my world, at least physically. So why do I feel the loss as dearly as I would my closest friend?
Maybe because even though I never met Bowie, his voice, his thoughts, his style, his different colored eyes, his music has permeated my life and become part of it, a marker as clear as any anniversary or season or journey. (The Man Who Sold the World on Music)
For Bowie fans, the anniversary we observe together on January 10, 2017 offers the promise of renewed harmony between and within generations and races and strangers and conflicting creeds. At least for that one day. What happens next is up to us, but Starman will have done his part once again.