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Face Off - Bowie Growing Old - Part 1

by Nevada Kerr

Old people are often considered offensive to the sight or unbeautiful. The fearful old hag being of disagreeable or loathsome aspect. Young people often have a fear of aging and a special distaste for the aging rock star. Unlike most rock stars Bowie confronted his aging gracefully. He didn't hide away as if he were "unfit to be seen."

Some might have seen his direct confrontation with "growing old" as repellant or repugnant. In the youth culture the very idea of the aging rock is grotesque and bizarre and it's considered bad taste to draw attention to it which is exactly what Bowie does.

Bowie explores the deformities of age and mortality in "The Heart's Filthy Lesson" "Strangers When We Meet," "Thursdays Child," and "Survive" videos. In the song "The Heart's Filthy Lesson" Bowie confronts his aging and dying head on in a way he never has before: "Paddy will you carry me, I think I've lost my way. I'm already five years older. I'm already in my grave." "Paddy, what a fantastic death abyss."

I think Bowie knows in some way that it is a "vain labor" to hide your age and that he can grow more as a human being and an artist by facing the "forbidden and forbidding" countenance in the mirror. And that's exactly what he does in the video for "Thursday's Child." It's excrutiatingly painful to watch as he reveals the specter of youth staring back at him. It's kind of like the inversion of the myth of Narcissus. With the radiance and splendor of youth replaced by the fearful visage of age, he comes face to face with his own mortality. And with the countenance falling the heart fails but only for a moment. By removing the mask of youth and confronting the melancholy of growing old Bowie rises triumphant.

Written by © Raven Drake
February 16, 2007.

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Created: April 2007 © Paul Kinder Last Updated: 30/4/07