David Bowie: The Man Behind the Masks


I can't be cool about this. I can't do the video retrospective, the column full of quotes, quips, stats and star stuff. I'm typing with tears in my eyes. This really hurts.

You see, back in my teen years, David Bowie was the man who gave a whole generation the courage to do anything. Everything. He gave us permission to do whatever our hearts desired, whatever our minds could dream, whatever we believed was right and even some things we might've thought were wrong, but would take us some-wonderful-where we couldn't go if we didn't take the dare.

He warned the world about us in Changes, one of the most audacious anthems of the day:

And these children that you spit on
As they try to change their worlds
Are immune to your consultations
They're quite aware of what they're going through


But the thing I will remember most, something many may have forgotten, is a long hiatus he took in the late 70s to kick his much publicized cocaine habit and raise his son, Duncan Zowie Hayward Jones, on his own. I was a rock critic for the Chicago Sun Times then, fairly well acquainted with the sordid details of Bowie's marriage.

Sordid may be putting it mildly, to be honest. A Daily Mail article from 2010, says Bowie's son was "born into an unimaginably dysfunctional family, with both parents addicted to drugs and practicing a bizarre sexual free-for-all" in which Bowie and his former wife behaved "rather like a couple of bisexual alleycats."

2016-01-11-1452501628-812207-davidzowieangie.jpgDavid and Angie Bowie with son "Zowie" in 1974

Single fatherhood proved difficult, the addiction continuing to complicate Bowie's personal and professional lives. But in the same article, Bowie recalls looking at his young son and thinking, "Well, this is worth living for."

And eventually, miraculously, father and son not only survived but thrived. And years later, Bowie was a deservedly proud papa when his son's film Moon won a BAFTA (British Academy of Film and Television Award) for "Outstanding Debut by a British Director" in 2010.


Bowie and son Duncan Jones at the premiere of Jone's film, "Moon"
I was delighted for both father and son, when I heard the news. Bowie took a huge risk, walking away from fame for his son's sake back when. I remember being stunned, moved and also a little scared for him at the time. In fact, when he proposed to Iman so romantically and publicly, having raised his son and battled back into the limelight stronger than ever, I remember thinking that no one deserved a "happily ever after" more.

Today he will be hailed as the man of many faces in tributes festooned with full color photos of his many alter egos. But of all the roles he played, "father" to son Duncan and daughter Alexandria Zahra may have been the most impressive.

And I offer my sincerest condolences to his children and all who knew that man--the brave, brilliant man behind the masks.

Photo credits:

Wikipedia Commons, public domain

AVRO (Beeld En Geluid Wiki - Gallerie: Toppop 1974) CC BY-SA 3.0 via Wikimedia Commons

David, Angela & Zowie Bowie, 1974--Flickr CC BY-NC-SA 2.0

Duncan Jones and David Bowie at the premiere of Moon, David Shankbone. Licensed under CC BY 3.0 via Commons