David Bowie and Glenn Frey, Two Sides Of The 1970s Coin

davidbowiewhitedukeAs sad and as tragic the recent deaths of David Bowie, Glenn Frey, and Lemmy Kilmister have been, what is especially freaky is that they all happened literally days apart.

I mean, it’s such a bitter irony that together, these three artists profoundly influenced almost every major Rock subgenre associated with the 1970s — heavy metal, thrash metal, country rock, soft rock, glam rock, punk rock and new wave. Now they are all gone within a span of 2 ½ weeks.

Bowie and Frey in particular were senior architects of what we know as 1970s Rock. (Lemmy’s big successes didn’t really come until the 1980s.) Most Rock bands that launched in the 1970s usually owed something to one artist or the other.

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It’s hard to overstate Glenn Frey’s impact on the first half of the 1970s Rock scene. As the brains and the driving force behind the Eagles, he changed Rock, at least for a little while. How many albums define any decade as well as Hotel California defined the 1970s? Country rock eventually veered off the Rock map and became New Country, but for several years Frey’s influence was as deeply felt in Rock music as anyone’s.

Of course, Frey was simply building upon the music of artists that came before him – The Byrds, Gram Parsons, the Flying Burrito Brothers, and Crosby, Stills, Nash and Young. The CSN&Y guys always thought The Eagles ripped off their harmony act, but the truth is that unlike his predecessors, Glenn Frey had the wherewithal and the talent to turn his band into one of the biggest megastars in Rock history.

There’s no denying, though, that David Bowie’s influence on Rock ran much longer and deeper than Glenn Frey’s. Bowie’s influence didn’t stop in the 1970s with glam, punk and new wave, it actually gained momentum through the ‘80s and ‘90s. However it’s important to remember that Bowie himself was also building upon the music of those who came before, especially The Beatles and the Velvet Underground. He was largely updating some older ideas into a brilliant, creative new package.

Maybe that’s the point. Maybe that’s the lesson that a reflection on these tragic events brings us. Maybe it’s a cosmic reminder that Rock itself should always be in a constant state of reinvention. Rock artists need to constantly look back as they look forward, and combine the best of what came before while trying to create the next big thing for the future. That has always been the case, and it always will be.

So we get the message. Now, can we stop already with the open season on Rock giants of ANY era?

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2 comments to “David Bowie and Glenn Frey, Two Sides Of The 1970s Coin”
  1. I’m trying to think of who’s pushing the envelope in rock these days, and it’s hard to think of anyone… Hopefully, the legacies of these guys act like a springboard.

    • Maybe i have a different definition, but i can name 10 artists I think are pushing the envelope these days. The problem is, none of them have yet earned a following as big as what the classic rockers had — for lots of reasons.

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