Sixty. It makes me feel like an old man—and Bowie recorded “Space Oddity” before I was born.
In honour of the Thin White Duke's special day, I have an interview he did with Dick Cavett. It must have been done in '72 or '73—it occurs to me that I know a fan who could guess within a few months, just looking at his hair—more than half his lifetime ago.
Cavett asks Bowie if he ever imagines himself at sixty, and throws in a little joke about the geriatric Beatles reunion that we now know wasn't meant to be. Bowie laughs, but doesn't answer.
But now we know about Bowie at sixty, and the reason why today makes me feel like an old man is because Bowie is still cool.
Very tough in his line of work. Blues, folk, and country stars often get more authentic with age: think of BB King, Bob Dylan, or Willie Nelson. But rock ’n’ rollers have a harder time keeping it real. Pete Townsend has turned into exactly the fatuous geezer he feared becoming when he first sang “I hope I die before I get old.” Paul McCartney. Ted Nugent. David Lee Roth. You see the problem.
A handful of rock stars manage to age gracefully without seeming to either clutch at the voice of their youth or to abandon it. Lou Reed, still delivering that New York grit; the gray actually suits him, somehow. Mick and Kieth, still doing their improbable dance of eros and thanos. (Those who laugh derisively at Mick Jaggar today forget that he was always funny.) Warren Zevon, managing to cut the only cover of “Knocking on Heaven's Door” worth doing almost literally from his deathbed.
And David Bowie, God bless him. Still brilliant, still protean, still cool. Happy birthday, Mr. Bowie.