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I’m too young to know what recently deceased singer-songwriter David Bowie’s real era was like. In his 1970s heyday I wasn’t even a concept, let alone an embryo, let alone a person. Despite this, I have always nurtured a quiet affection for his music, and especially his most famous album Ziggy Stardust and the Spiders from Mars. – a landmark in modern English music and the founding template for his uncountable creative successors.
The outpouring of grief which followed Bowie’s passing was entirely justified. Few names are so familiar to so many. His cultural achievements were real, great and ingenious. Bowie’s penchant for lyrical and stylistic innovation loosened the tie of a boringly, stuffily moralistic Britain, changing it forever. The generation he inspired, the much maligned baby-boomers (now bustling to receive their pensions) supplied the content of our current era, all its good and all its bad.
Unlike his contemporaries, Bowie avoided the trap of utopian Leftism. He was never a hippy, or a Communist. His flirtations with the ideas of Nietzsche, Mussolini and Hitler were too brief to mean anything. In essence, Bowie remained completely loyal to England, and to freedom, capitalism and the modern world. This alone places him leagues above the likes of Lennon and McCartney, at least in my view.
It’s sad to say, but England doesn’t produce many Bowies these days. Whether this is due to a general decline in national talent, or merely a symptom of political and economic distraction is uncertain. I personally believe musical sophistication is declining by popular consent. The most successful songs of today are marked by their infantilism. ‘Hit the Quan’, ‘All About That Bass’, ‘Crank Dat’: As tunes go, these are barely fit for public elevators. But they are popular. The public will get what it wants.
I find some commentators are overly harsh in judging the baby boomers. Peter Hitchens (the Daily Mail’s resident curmudgeon) regularly insults them, even while belonging to the same definition. People like Hitchens tend to blame the post-war generation for the liberalism and political correctness that now blights our lives and jeopardises our cultural integrity. Is that fair? Yes and no. While political correctness was certainly embraced by English youths in the 1960s, it wasn’t authored by them. Rather the blueprint of PC and all its associated phenomena derives from German and French academia, particularly from the Marxist radicals collected in memory as the ‘Frankfurt School’. The baby boomers, exhausted by division and fearful of war, were caught in a state of naivety.
I envy those who were alive in the 60s and 70s. Much progress has been made since then, but at the cost of much degeneration.