An Australian CEO reflects on the life of David Bowie

Tributes to David Bowie at his New York City home. Nicholas Hunt/Getty Images

(Marion Fulker is the CEO of the Committee for Perth)

I am reeling from David Bowie’s death. The short statement that announced his passing after an 18 month battle with cancer was like a punch to the stomach. It knocked me sideways.

Like so many, I couldn’t believe it was true. When the news broke I trawled social media and listened to the radio desperate for more information, yet details were scant. The outpouring of grief on Facebook was on par with the degree of shock.

Friends too were grieving. It was simply unfathomable that one of music’s most enduring artists had died. A touching post from an old school friend in Sydney of a picture of a tour t-shirt more than 30 years old, that remains one of her most treasured items of clothing, made me cry at our loss.

My introduction to Bowie was immersive. My mother’s boyfriend with his soft English lilt, Jagger dance moves and extensive record collection moved in. Her classical music LPs and my Aussie rock 45s were cast aside in favour of the newly re-energised British music scene played loud on vinyl. David Bowie reigned supreme on the turntable, one minute we were contemplating space with Major Tom the next wondering if there was Life on Mars.

Bowie was the father of reinvention. With every album came a new character and their ensuing impacts to his music and lyrics kept coming. In quick succession the glam rocker Ziggy Stardust was followed by Aladdin Sane then Diamond Dogs.

What came next was a complete change of pace to the smooth and cool Young Americans in which he so skilfully re-created soul music, Bowie style.

My high school years coincided with Bowie’s Thin White Duke era, my personal favourite. His image so beautifully captured on the cover of Station to Station. Bowie was still cool but his music had new edge.

Then came his collaboration with Brian Eno on Low off on a different direction again.

More albums followed with Bowie’s sound constantly twisting and turning with every new release.

Through the years his music lost none of its edge. The release on his 69th birthday of his final album Blackstar proves it.

I saw him play live twice. Once at the Sydney Cricket Ground in 1983 for the Serious Moonlight tour and then at the Supreme Court Gardens in Perth in 2004. The ’80s concert was high energy and of mega proportions, with tens of thousands of people up on their feet dancing. The Perth concert on a more intimate scale. That concert has recently been called one of his best live performances. What a privilege to have been there.

TV is serving up Bowie’s life on screen and I watched a doco that showed his years of transformation. While I worked at the computer, I started a pilgrimage of his music in chronological order. Afterwards I couldn’t help but think he was one talented dude.

Social media remains abuzz with tributes to the great man by some of the music industry’s most prominent figures. They write words of love, admiration and respect. Comments left by the public are heartfelt. Ordinary people leaving notes of thanks for years of ground breaking music and songs, relaying their own stories of what they meant to them.

Marion Fulker

Not defined by fame or fortune, he pushed the boundaries right until the very end. That’s why we can’t contemplate that Bowie is dead. David Bowie was timeless because he set the trends that so many of us followed. His personas defined chunks of our lives that have left indelible marks. That is why it is so hard to believe Ziggy is but a fallen Starman.

Marion Fulker has been a David Bowie fan since the early 1970s. She is the CEO of the Committee for Perth, a private sector funded think-tank and an Adjunct Senior Research Fellow at The University of Western Australia.

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