What was being negated by Bowie was all the nonsense, the falsity, the accrued social meanings, traditions and morass of identity that shackled us, especially in relation to gender identity and class. His songs revealed how fragile all these meanings were and gave us the capacity for reinvention. They gave us the belief that our capacity for changes, was, like his, seemingly limitless.
Of course, there are limits, obviously mortal limits, to who we are how far we can reshape ourselves — even for Bowie, who seemed eternal. But when I listen to Bowie’s songs I hear an extraordinary hope for transformation. And I don’t think I am alone in this.
The core of this hope, which gives it a visceral register that touches the deepest level of our desire is the sense that, as he sings in “Rock and Roll Suicide,” “On no, love, you’re not alone,” the sense that we can be heroes, just for a day, and that we can be us just for a day, with some new sense of what it means to be us.