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We can be heroes

The stripped back and largely acoustic instrumentation of Dr Ian Chapman & the Cosmic Jive Trio’s presentation of David Bowie & the Art of Being Different means Bowie’s masterful song-writing takes centre stage, says Chapman.

The trio brings the show Chapman describes as educational and entertainment to Gisborne next week.

Co-convener of Otago University’s contemporary music degree course, Chapman is a specialist in the life and work of David Bowie and has written two books on the artist along with many articles and other media outputs.

David Bowie & the Art of Being Different is a celebration of eccentric creativity, a testament to how the arts can give strength, improve mental health, heal past traumas, and provide an essential blueprint for how to deal with bullying, he says.

“Bowie was a champion of the outsider. He had a half-brother who struggled with mental illness and took his own life. Some of Bowie’s songs deal with people being marginalised.”

During the show, Chapman intersperses performances of Bowie’s songs, both well-known and lesser-known, with brief talks about the artist’s life, songs, influences, impact and self-reinventions from David Jones to David Bowie; his alter-egos Major Tom, Ziggy Stardust, Alladdin Sane, Halloween Jack, Thomas J Newton, the plastic soul man, and the controversial Thin White Duke.

“I give details on individual songs during the show,” says Chapman.

“Entertainment and education are a similar aspect of my work at Otago.”

Bowie acted as a tour guide for many people, Chapman told the audience during a 2017 show in Dunedin.

“If you’re a David Bowie fan he took you through a plethora of different musical styles you may not have otherwise.”

Bowie was far more than a rock star, Chapman tells the Guide.

“So many rock stars find a formula and stick with it but Bowie changed all the time and took us with him.”

Bowie is often referred to as the chameleon of rock but unlike the lizard that camouflages itself by blending into its surroundings, Bowie changed because he wanted to, says Chapman.

“He led the pack.”

Born in Brixton, South London, Bowie studied art, music and design and in 1963 became a professional musician. He released Space Oddity in 1969, then after a period of experimentation, he re-emerged in 1972 during the glam rock era with his flamboyant and androgynous alter ego Ziggy Stardust.

By 1975, his style had shifted towards a sound he characterised as “plastic soul” and won success in the US with the single Fame, and the album Young Americans. After releasing Station to Station in 1976, Bowie transitioned to the electronic-inflected album Low, the first of three collaborations with Brian Eno that came to be known as the Berlin Trilogy. The albums Heroes, Lodger, Scary Monsters, and Let’s Dance followed.

He died of liver cancer in 2016, two days after his 69th birthday and the release of his final album, Blackstar, 31 years to the month after his older half-brother, Terry Burns’ death.

It was Terry who first introduced Bowie to West End clubs and music, to thought-provoking books by Jack Kerouac and Albert Camus, and to the jazz and soul records that ultimately fired his imagination, reports the Daily Mail.

“Bowie himself readily acknowledged Terry’s influence, saying that from him, he got ‘the greatest serviceable education that I could have had. He just introduced me to the outside things . . . I saw the magic and I caught the enthusiasm for it because of his enthusiasm for it. And I kinda wanted to be like him.”

The controversial biopic Stardust touches on how Bowie’s relationship influenced the creation of his on-stage persona Ziggy Stardust.

“In 1972, when he launched his career with Ziggy Stardust, I found the notion of reinvention empowering because I was 12 and experiencing bullying and marginalisation. I found his blueprint empowering. He was clearly different and he made that his strength,” Chapman says.

“Above all, David Bowie & the Art of Being Different is a triumphant affirmation of the power and potential of difference.”

Dr Ian Chapman & the Cosmic Jive Trio present David Bowie & the Art of Being Different, Smash Palace, Sunday, June 27, 7pm. Tickets $20 from eventfinda.co.nz

The show is brought to Gisborne by Arts On Tour NZ, InCahoots with Smash Palace.

SOUND AND VISION: Made up of Otago University contemporary music degree course co-convener, musician and David Bowie specialist, Dr Ian Chapman, Otago University performance tutor in contemporary music, freelance musician, and composer, Doug Wright, and Otago University bass specialist, Pania Simmonds, Dr Ian Chapman & the Cosmic Jive Trio bring to Gisborne next week their show David Bowie & the Art of Being Different. Picture supplied