Yesterday morning my Twitter feed, and perhaps yours too, was full of two things: links to old Soul Train clips, in honor of the passing of Don Cornelius, and to samples of the Denis Johnson archives newly available at the Harry Ransom Center in Texas, courtesy of Farrar, Straus, and Giroux.
Among the Cornelius clips was this one, which makes a nice footnote to my celebration of The Man Who Fell to Earth last week. It's Bowie, promoting "Golden Years" while, apparently, high as a kite. He's giggly and off-rhythm and seems adolescent, especially compared to the grave, composed alien he played in the movie--not to mention to the supreme mellowness of the late Mr. Cornelius, who insists on calling him "Boowie," like the Maryland suburb. It's so strange to see that charismatic man shrinking into himself and missing the beat of the moment (and not really handling the excellent question: "When did you start wanting to do soul music? I mean you're doing it!").
(I'll be quite honest: Bowie's uninspired lipsynching pales in comparison--at least in terms of commitment--to the back-to-back duets of "Ziggy" and "Life on Mars" I shared with Martian Bracelets at Seattle's Best Karaoke last week.)
And from the Denis Johnson material posted today I could link to almost anything--notes for Train Dreams, or scribbles on coasters for Tree of Smoke, or on a paper plate for The Name of the World--but this was the one that got under my skin: little slips of paper described by the archives as "motivational notes."
It's heartening to know that Denis Johnson needs to buck himself up too, and these are exactly the sort of messages I'd hope and expect he'd write to himself (though not the colors or the fonts!?!). And the second message should not be surprising at all, given the title and cover image of this poetry collection of Johnson's. "If I'm Some Kind of James Hampton" would make an excellent album title, or just a message on my own wall. So be it.