I am a huge David Bowie fan. Here are a few things I learned from the Thin White Duke along the way.
- Survival Skills – True Story: David Bowie hated Los Angeles. Because of this, he spent an entire year cooped up in his L.A. apartment suffering from visions of bodies falling past his window and hallucinations that he was being stalked by Jimmy Page from Led Zeppelin. Unbelievably, he was able to survive for the year on a meager diet of peppers and milk (maybe Jimmy Page was just dropping off his groceries?) I can’t even eat paleo for a week…
- Have a (Karaoke) Strategy – Karaoke, like anything worth doing well, requires some advanced planning. In many ways, it’s about reading the energy of the room. For example, you don’t want to do a Master P rap to a bunch of tapas-eating wine sippers at 4:30 in the afternoon (no matter how hilarious your former college roommate thinks it is). Conversely, don’t slow down the night’s building momentum by singing a slow paced Nora Jones song to a rowdy crowd at 1AM. To avoid confusion, it is best to have some songs in your back pocket that can work at almost any time during the karaoke session. David Bowie’s “Just Dance” is exactly that song. It’s fun, everyone has heard it before, but it isn’t totally worn out like “Sweet Caroline” (thanks, Redsox…)
- Dress for Success – Once upon a time, Mick Jagger and David Bowie filmed the video for the song “Dancing in the Street.” Simply put, the video was an awkward, pointed departure from their usual taste for expensive fashion. While watching you get the sense that the only note the director gave was, “I have an idea! Let’s not spend any production value! David and Mick, just dance like you are having a seizure while running over hot coals. Also, if you could sing directly into each others mouths like you are ordering at a drive-thru, that would be perfect!” The one and only highlight is Bowie’s massive, cape-like trench coat. Of the great trench coat wearers who wore it best there is Humphrey Bogart, Dick Tracy, Tin Tin, and as of 1985…Bowie.
- Respect your Elders – Just when you think that things can’t get weirder, along comes Bing Crosby. I’m not sure about your family, but for me, it just isn’t Christmas until my wife and I cozy up with some mulled wine and watch Bing Crosby’s thinly veiled loathing for David Bowie as they sing their version of “The Little Drummer Boy” in a room so bedazzled, I can only assume that it is Liberache’s holiday dungeon. Bowie maintains perfect respect, though; as he proceeds to vocally dominate Crosby for the next three minutes. In the final frame, you can see a single tear stream down Crosby’s face as he realizes that no amount of tap dancing with Danny Kaye will save him from obscurity. (Half of the people reading this will say, “Bing who?” Exactly.)
- Be your kind of Cool – David Bowie shouldn’t have been cool, but he was. It was almost like he knew what cool was and just waited for the rest of us to catch up. Take note. Be yourself. We’ll all love you for it.