How a Gay, Ginger, Bonk-eyed, Snaggle-toothed Freak in a Dress Led Me on a Path to Martial Arts Success
We interrupt this blog that is primarily dedicated to shamelessly promoting Haastyle Martial Arts Academy and the Counterpoint Tactical System (<– please visit the website for more details), to address a gaping hole in the universe; the passing of one Mr. David Robert Jones (January 8, 1947 – January 10, 2016), always known to his fans as David Bowie. I’m aware that most folks reading these words are becoming ever thoroughly dependent upon ingesting my periodic wisdom vis-a-vis martial arts and fight sport, but this day demands another tactic. So, as I have always known since my formative years, and applied for so long now with Master Whitson, you must do what feels right, and the unexpected output may often be the better choice. I know this to be true in martial arts, so let’s see if it carries over to my writing. Master Z is famous for saying “I don’t know, let’s try it and see,” when asked how he would respond to a particular attack. How will this article be received? I don’t know, we’ll see…
My martial arts training has had myriad influences, probably starting with the G.O.A.T Muhammad Ali and Bruce Lee in the early 1970’s, but, around that same time, I was discovering music. The only thing that has impacted my life more than my training is music. David Bowie was one of the musicians that influenced me, beginning as early as I can remember. I don’t know when exactly, I’m thinking it was seeing footage of the screwed up eyes and screwed down hairdo singing “Space Oddity” from the documentary, concert film Ziggy Stardust and the Spiders from Mars which came out in 1973 (I was 9 years old)?
The influence then became unexpectedly reinforced as I sat with my Mom and Dad, thus gaining their approval, for his legendary performance with Bing Crosby in 1977. Here is the Funny or Die version (a fairly reverential take, btw), lest we suffer from Bowie overload this week.
The early influence was solidified with the revolutionary effects in his “Ashes to Ashes” video (from his 1980 disc, Scary Monsters (And Super Creeps)) that was touted at the time as one of the first music videos. The song itself, with it’s ‘death of the zeitgeist’ proclamation:
“Ashes to ashes, funk to funky; We know Major Tom’s a junkie; Strung out in heaven’s high, hitting an all-time low”
This was heavy stuff for a 16 year old who could take or leave the ’70’s. This line alone has had a great impact on my life and, indeed, my martial arts training. Things will not stay what they were yesterday; what you once thought, may not be true; and, with perseverance (and the intrusion of alternative influences), hitting an all-time low need not mean the end of the line.
True influence is only achieved through generations. So as I moved on in my life, I continued to feel the great influence the man, now nattily attired in a white suit, presenting himself as a ‘serious, modern man’, had on me. I’ll never forget putting the record (yes, vinyl) on in my dorm room at Tobey Hall on the first day of my sophomore year. By the time I had to flip the record over, half of the hall was gathered listening to the funk get funky and the great, then pretty much unknown, Stevie Ray Vaughan on guitar for Bowie’s Let’s Dance (1983). Admittedly, an album of it’s time, but I met a lot of good friends that day. To be sure, most of those guys would like to see a tip of the hat to another recently passed legend, one, Lemmy Kilmister, a man who has also been an influence.
Moving on to the next generation, an early recordings of Bowie’s, turned up as a favorite for sing alongs back in the day at the Haasienda. One of his first singles, “Love You ’til Tuesday” was on a compilation we had of early punk rock influences called “Alter-No-Daze” (I can’t find a link online, but if I do I will update). My daughter Marissa (now the lead singer of the great punk rock band out of Greenville, NC called No Brainer) and I, used to listen to this on a loop. The Ramones, Bowie, Siouxsie and the Banshees et al., were punks early influences. The irony in this song was that, despite what a downer Bowie could be in the ’70’s when I was introduced, this was a very fun, uplifting song, and my kids loved it!
I want to wrap up this incredibly self indulgent post by saying that I continue to update my Bowie collection and have followed Bowie’s ch-ch-ch-changes, literally, until the day he died. ChangesOneBowie, his first greatest hits set, has been on my desert island list for more than 30 years without hesitation, and his new record, Blackstar, came out on his 60th birthday just two days before he passed are the bookends. His previous collection called The Next Day came out in 2013 and started up a bit of a Bowie renaissance for me, as I revisited his entire catalog. Has there ever been someone that has combined music and the visual presentation with such amazing diversity, passion and, don’t be mad bro, success, for so many years like he has?
“His death was no different from his life — a work of Art,”
Tony Visconti, Bowie’s long-time collaborator
No, Bowie was not my favorite, but he has had a tremendous influence on all of them: Bruce Springsteen, Joan Jett, The Pretenders, Social Distortion, REM, Nirvana and Frank Turner, just to name a few.
I could never do justice to a eulogy, so if you need more, check out this great article from one of my favorites sites, Consequence of Sound, David Bowie Lives! The Cunning Exit of a Post-Modern Lazarus. It provided the final push, and inspired me to go this route with my writing today. I also thought this was funny – God Finalizes Supergroup Lineup ; or maybe he had a divine plan, according to this article in The Telegraph (sounds English), David Bowie’s last release, Lazarus, was ‘parting gift’ for fans in carefully planned finale.
David Bowie made me understand that I should think outside the box, that I should question what I have been presented, that I don’t have to (and maybe I shouldn’t) be today, the same as I was yesterday and, in his final movement, the finale, if you will, to show grace Under Pressure. These are well known themes that he first helped me with as a child and stay with me to this day, the light of the universe shines ever brighter now that you are among the stars. Godspeed Starman…
Over here on E Street, we’re feeling the great loss of David Bowie. David was a visionary artist and an early supporter of our music. Always changing and ahead of the curve, he was an artist whose excellence you aspired to. He will be sorely missed. – Bruce
“He was the artist who had the most influence on me, both musically and personally. His courage and fearless creativity was a model to follow. I didn’t know him well, but I will always love him. He was supportive, and lent his help, when it meant the most. There will never be another like him, and the world will not be the same without David Bowie.” – Joan Jett
You were the single flame in the center of it all.
Thank you David
His music got me through a troubled childhood. He provided joy, imagination, and escape. His phrasing when he sings, his poetic and stylish lyrics…this man shaped thousands of boys and girls who went on to be their own rock stars. Thank you, Mr. Bowie, for the special gifts you gave all of us. – Mike Ness
Right now, it feels as if the solar system is off its axis, as if one of our main planetary anchors has lost it’s orbit. That said—I am certain that wherever Bowie is now—I want to be there someday. —Michael Stipe
See you on the mat! RH