I was thinking about David Bowie yesterday. John Scalzi had a blog post on introducing his daughter to Bowie (http://whatever.scalzi.com/2014/12/05/this-is-how-we-educate-our-youth/) and in the list of the five songs he recommended he included the anthem “Heroes”. I applauded that way down thread. But “Heroes” was never meant to be what it has become.
Sometimes art takes on a new meaning, substance that the creator never intended. Pearl Jam’s “Alive” is one example. A real downer of a tune, the chorus seemed so redemptive and affirming that people embraced it as a personal anthem. Another example is David Bowie’s “Heroes”. Intended to be a song about two doomed lovers standing at the Berlin Wall the song became something else, an anthem of heroism. It’s partly that incredible vocal. On the studio version, using gated microphones, Bowie’s vocals take on this impossible intensity that does seem heroic. And such is his mastery that he was able to often match that intensity live.
The recording above is at the Concert for New York City back in 2001. It was a benefit and celebration for all the firemen and police for their heroism in the face of 9/11. By this time Bowie had embraced what the song had become and in front of this audience he delivers a performance he dedicated to the NYFD ladder company in his neighborhood. It still gives me the chills.
As these benefit/tribute concerts go, the Concert for New York was OK. Some performances were great, some were spotty, and the videos and dedications in between acts were really hit and miss. And then there’s the Who, who just went out there and destroyed the place.