Lady Stardust

Originally Performed ByDavid Bowie
Original AlbumThe Rise and Fall of Ziggy Stardust and the Spiders from Mars (1972)
Music/LyricsDavid Bowie
Phish Debut2016-10-31
Last Played2016-10-31
Current Gap281
Last Update2016-11-22


When David Bowie died in 2016, the outcry was much stronger than that for the passing of a usual celebrity. The reason for that is that Bowie represented something more than a musician and an actor. His works spoke to those who stand on the outside of society, feeling somewhat alien to the roles that they were supposed to play. There’s a reason why the image most people have of David Bowie is of an alien; he sang about the society but never felt like he was in it.

In the case of “Lady Stardust,” Bowie sings about a musician at odds with traditional gender roles. Lady Stardust is actually a boy, one who wears makeup, has long hair, and dresses in bright colors. He was destined to be considered a freak, until that moment happened when he jumped on the stage. Then his gender didn’t matter. The songs might have been of darkness and dismay, but they moved people in a way that only music can. Mockery morphed first into stunned bewilderment and then desire to know who this person is. While seemingly about Lady Stardust’s music, this is a song about acceptance, showing how and why someone stops being considered mockable and instead becomes a full fledged person. If you want to know why Bowie was a hero to so many, this song is a perfect place to start.

Of course none of that works if the tune is just a polemic. The strength of Bowie is that he writes that narrative in a form of a brilliant melody with an infectious chorus. One can believe Lady Stardust’s song is that powerful because “Lady Stardust” is. Maybe the song didn’t go on forever, but Page’s singing of that chorus can make us wish that it would.  

While this song would have been enjoyable at any time, one of the major political conflicts of 2016 was about the rights of transgender people. The election of Donald Trump - and the subsequent fear from that community - a week after this was performed gives a song about accepting someone with a fluid gender identity an extra resonance. Between the sudden timeliness of its message and that this was one of the few songs performed from The Rise and Fall of Ziggy Stardust and the Spiders from Mars that has no backing musicians or singers, “Lady Stardust” is a prime candidate to stick around. That would be awful nice, really quite paradise. 

David Bowie -- “Lady Stardust”

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