Today would have been David Bowie’s 70th birthday, and Tuesday marks the one-year anniversary of his death. So this week I thought it would be more than appropriate to honor him.
“Life on Mars?” is, to me, a bit of an underrated song. It’s not totally unknown, of course, and I don’t think I’ve ever heard anyone speak poorly of it. But I also don’t recall seeing anyone praise it either. It’s in the odd position of being on a greatest hits collection while being largely ignored in favor of songs like “Rebel Rebel,” “Suffragette City,” and “Space Oddity,” to name a few. It rarely, if ever, gets played on classic rock stations, and I would imagine most people, whether casual listeners or die-hard fans, would be hesitant to call it one of their favorite tracks.
Personally, I really love it, which is probably apparently given that I’m using it for the Song of the Week. It’s a song that at first glance might seem a bit nonsensical, but is fraught with meaning upon closer inspection. It’s about the futility and cyclical nature of life; how we go around and around in circles, day in and day out, unless we do something to break the cycle. It’s about wondering if there’s more out there for us than the same boring routine.
It could also be legitimately asking about the existence of aliens, but I don’t think so.
I imagine that this kind of life was exactly what Bowie worked to avoid. After all, he did create quite a few personas for himself, redefining his career over and over as he grew and changed as an artist. They were tools, muses, in a way, for the work he was doing during those phases. They kept his music and performances fresh and exciting. Basically, they kept him from falling in a boring routine.
I don’t know if there’s life on Mars, but I do know that we could all stand to do a little more living here on Earth. Like the man said — “turn and face the strange.”
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