A very few songs have resonated through the time continuum in music and who else than a ‘Starman’ to accomplish such a feet? This masterpiece by late David Bowie is undoubtedly one of his best works-which is a difficult ranking scale itself. The song speaks about a ‘starman’ in the sky wanting to come meet the people of earth, but is scared. We think this song was released before it’s time, as now we understand the song better than several decades back.
“Starman” was the first single released off David Bowie’s fifth studio album ‘The Rise and Fall of Ziggy Stardust and the Spiders from Mars’ in April, 1972. The lyrics were written by David Bowie himself. This song created an entire culture of ‘starmen’ alter egos in the career of David Bowie.
The single, surprisingly, did not top any music charts, but was one of the best selling singles in Bowie’s career. According to Chartmasters, the single has sold a massive 4.7 million units worldwide since release. However, even to date, “Starman” is considered a cornerstone in Rock n’ Roll culture.
Watch David Bowie Perform “Starman” Live in 1972
“Starman” is a story of Ziggy Stardust-the human messenger of the Starman in the sky. The song makes out Ziggy to bring a message to the children of the Earth, from who’s perspective David Bowie vocalizes the song.
Lyrics Review and Song Meaning of “Starman”
Intro to the song is a solemn two lines of “Hey my love, Goodbye love.” Both are forms of greeting used, one, when meeting someone, the other, when leaving someone. Hence, from the first line itself, Ziggy has met us and left us.
Ziggy is at the radio listening to some rock n’ roll music. ‘Cat’ is a slang used to refer to cool people back in the 60s. Then suddenly the loud music starts to fade and a foreign wave frequency is tapped into the radio.
A ‘hazy cosmic jive’ is difficult to explain. Hazy is a state of blurriness and jive is a lively dance style popularized in the 1950s. Let’s just imagine an overlord voice with a deep resonance. But Ziggy was sure that it was no DJ he has ever listened to.
The message from the radio tells that there is a ‘Starman’ in the sky and he even wants to meet the people of Earth. Ziggy Stardust is not the Starman himself, but merely his messenger. Is he alien? Quite not. He is human, with an alien perspective on life.
But he thinks he’d blow our minds
Despite the popular opinion that whatever alien species who visits earth is out to destroy us, Ziggy Stardust in “Starman” says, the Starman has come to enlighten them. What he has to tell or show will be a massive blow to the popular opinions we hold on to.
This makes more and more sense now. Humans are blinded by social constructs such as religion, country, power, money and greed. The very core of some religions would shatter if aliens were to show up at our doorsteps. The mighty powers with advanced technology would have to kneel infront of alien technology that is capable of traveling through space. We would not have a chance to wage war with their advanced technology. This is the kind of ‘blowing our minds,’ Ziggy is referring to in the song.
Ziggy is reaching out to the youth of Earth. The youth are fresh-minded, their minds have not been hammered to believe within social constructs yet. Ziggy believes it is too late to tell any of the amazing things to the older generation, as they have been bent in ways that cannot be straightened again. But it is not too late for the kids. So Ziggy is telling the kid listening to the radio to not tell the parents about this encounter and blow this chance of meeting the Starman, because it will be worthwhile.
He told me
Let the children lose it
Let the children use it
Let all the children boogie
It is unclear what these lines mean exactly. But this is my best interpretation:
The Starman has told Ziggy to let the children take control of things. Do not mould them into believing or doing anything, but let them explore, lose themselves and discover themselves. It is too late for the adults now, as they have been molded into shapes so bent out that they cannot be straightened again. Children are fresh of mind and flexible. Even the Starman isn’t instructing Ziggy to teach them what he knows. He is instructing them to let them be free and let them discover it on their own. What’s the ‘it’? ‘It’ is everything.
Watch David Bowie Perform “Starman” Live in 2002
Ziggy was startled by the message by the Starman so he calls a friend, and that friend is you. He is delivering this message to everyone out there on Earth.
Channel two is made out to sound very futuristic, as in 1970s there were not many TV channels.
David Bowie asks us to look out the window as we might see the Starman’s light. Looking out the window is a metaphor for our conscripted minds. Windows are borders, with which our vision, beliefs and thinking are restricted. Ziggy asks us to look out of those frames of minds society has constructed. ‘Light’ here refers to knowledge or enlightenment. If you dare step out of the restricting borders the society has built around us, maybe we will be able to see some truth.
So in other terms, ‘Starman’ could be not a being altogether. But a symbol for light, truth and knowledge.
Ziggy asks the friends not to tell their parents about this because they will not be able to see beyond the social constructs and they will forbid the children from discovering any truth.
What started as an extraterrestrial being in the sky, seems to be representing something else in “Starman” by David Bowie. If we look at the song with the restricted mindsets we will hear about an alien being who would like to visit us. But if we take Ziggy’s advise and look at it out of the window, what would we see? What do you see?
Let us know your thoughts about the song and the meaning in the comments below.
Full Lyrics to “Starman” by David Bowie