Monday, January 11, 2016

Peace on Earth (Can it Be)

I couldn't sleep last night.  It had been a jam-packed day at church, with 17 kids for storytime, the first meeting of our new men's small group, and the kicking off of my fist new sermon series for the year, that even after hitting the gym, cooking and having dinner with C, and pouring myself a scotch to enjoy as I caught up on all of the FA Cup games from England, I was still amped up well after midnight.

So I opened my laptop to play a couple games of FIFA, but before I plugged in my controller, I did what millennials do between tasks and idly clicked over to Facebook.  It was then that I began to see the headlines of the stories on my news feed:

David Bowie dead at 69

Musician David Bowie has died

Legendary musician David Bowie dies at age 69

I froze.  Bowie was born in 1947, but he belonged to more than just the generations of the baby boomers and the Xers.  He belonged to us as well.  His performance as Jareth in Labyrinth, his vocals with Freddie Mercury in Under Pressure...heck, the fact that BlackStar, his final opus, had dropped just two days prior on his birthday meant that Bowie was far more than a flash in the pan, far more than a niche, far more than just another oddball musician.

In point of fact, it was his oddity that appealed.  I nearly cried as I read collections of memories of GLBTQ people for whom David Bowie was the first person to give them permission to be who they are, as God made them to be, and not as how a brutally demanding society bent on homogeneity demanded that they be.

Bowie belonged to the outcasts, to the misunderstood, to the people who never quite colored in between the lines, because he indeed never did so himself.

The funny thing is that he, too, was accepted.  Even in an era--back in the 1970s--when being openly gay or bisexual was still largely verboten.  He was accepted, and not just in spite of his weirdness, but because of it.

When I could finally move again after seeing the news, I clicked over to Youtube and typed "David Bowie, Peace on Earth" into the search engine to bring up this:

Back in 1977, only a year or two removed from Bowie coming out as bisexual, Bing Crosby had him on for his (Crosby's) annual Christmas special, which they filmed in September.  Crosby was *the* establishment: he was a registered Republican, a huge name in not just music but television and film as well, and an entrepreneurial businessman.

But Crosby had the gender-bending, bizarre, impossible-to-label Bowie on his show in September of 1977 to film the duet above in which Crosby sings, in its traditional rhythm, the Carol of the Drum (Little Drummer Boy) as Bowie sings, in his higher tenor, Peace on Earth (Can it Be) as a countermelody:

Peace on earth, can it be
Years from now, perhaps we'll see
See the day of glory
See the day when men of goodwill
Live in peace, live in peace again
Peace on earth, can it be

I pray my wish will come true
For my child, and your child too
They'll see the day of glory
See the day when men of goodwill
Live in peace, live in peace again

Peace on earth, can it be

I played the video.  And then I played it again.  Never mind that Christmas has come and gone.  I got to hear this voice that would not sing again, at least, not on this earth.  Not in this life.

Nearly 40 years removed from this recording, we are still striving for that day of glory that Bowie spoke of.  Crosby would not be around for any of it, though--before the segment even aired for Christmas, Crosby died that year of a sudden and massive heart attack.  Much like Bowie's own death--because it had been kept private by him and his family--Crosby's demise came as a genuine shock when it happened.

That year, 1977, was his last-ever television special.

And he used it to bring in David Bowie.

David Bowie belonged to all of us, not in spite of his uniqueness but because of it.

And for that, the people whose lives he touched are forever in his debt.

Thank you, David Bowie.  Go with God.

Vancouver, Washington
January 11, 2016

Image of David Bowie as Jareth courtesy of Pinterest

1 comment:

  1. This is wonderful. Thank you so much for writing today! I was shocked by how gutted Bowie's death left me this morning. It's amazing how important he is to so many people from every possible corner.