"Five Years," which my friend Ken Kurson once described as the kickoff song to one of the most important albums of our time (on the occasion of the fifth anniversary of Worth magazine), has probably become my favorite track on The Rise and Fall of Ziggy Stardust and the Spiders From Mars, but I still get pulled up short by one of the lines:
A girl my age went off her head
Hit some tiny children
If the black hadn't of pulled her off
I think she would have killed them
I guess people really talked like that, but it's jarring to hear a person defined solely by skin color - the child-saving hero doesn't even get the dignity of a gender. The color is the noun.
So that's in 1972. Then, in 1975, Bowie let loose with this:
Sit on your hands on a bus of survivors
Blushing at all the Afro-Sheeners
So now they've graduated from being identified by their skin color to being identified by their hair-care products. I suppose that's progress.
I assume Nile Rodgers slapped some sense into Bowie around the time he was producing Let's Dance, toward the end of 1982. Since 1992, he's been married - apparently happily - to Somali supermodel Iman. (She had previously been married to onetime Seattle SuperSonics star Spencer Haywood.)
That's why I was careful to title this post in the past tense. I love Bowie's music, and I hate to make accusations about people, but those lyrics really punch me in the face every time I hear them.