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David Bowie

Lady Grinning Soul

David Bowie, Aladdin Sane | Photo: Masayoshi Sukita

Part Five Chapter 12

Mock-epic, melodramatic, glistening piano runs and arpeggios fill the room as you sashay out from behind the screen. Intrigued, Jürgen is struck by your bold look: Strong eye-liner, rich red lips and matt make-up give your face a sophisticated, sculptural elegance; slicked-back and pinned into a side bun, your hair—together with the rhinestone rosettes of your clip-on earrings—add a nostalgic, dreamy dimension. Cut from black silk, your dress is a fluid silhouette of gauzy layers, falling in delicate folds to a high-low hem. She’ll come, she’ll go: Over David Bowie’s reedy timbre, you overlay the grain of your voice, giving ‘Lady Grinning Soul’ a double-tracked shimmer. Barefoot, you are a sylph in gossamer, light and supple, honouring in dance the element of air. Ever since April, when Aladdin Sane came out, the album has grown on you. ‘Lady Grinning Soul’, in particular, has entered your blood: You’ve transposed it to violin, and find it works beautifully on your instrument. Now you’re singing it with utter naturalness and conviction. Jürgen is entranced.

David Bowie, Aladdin Sane | Photo: Bryan Duffy

David Bowie, Aladdin Sane | Photo: Lynn Goldsmith

What is it about the song that moves you so? Is it the way it undercuts its arch-romance by its own excess, double looping the ideal and the real, dream and desire? Is it the way it juxtaposes irony and innocence, sincerity and suspicion? And when the clothes are strewn, don’t be afrai-ai-aid of the room: Is it that which moves you? The virtue of masquerade, the active assuming of a role over and against the passive assumption of one? Identity is a delusion, authenticity a fiction, and the honour of the artist is to own up to that fact: Is it simply Bowie’s example that appeals to you? Does he help you live your life artistically? As saxophone and Spanish guitar bring in new colours, your dancing, at once balletic and jazzy, becomes more expansive. Jürgen is subjugated, completely under your spell; your barefoot prancing has nothing of the passive princess, and everything of a woman assuming her becoming taking control. As you sing the last verse, your voice stirs him more than he realizes; it will only be much later, when he’s a middle-aged man remembering his youth, that your voice will come to haunt him. You deliver the final chorus on the cusp of ambiguity, with neither coy parody nor naïve sincerity: Touch the fullness of her breast, feel the love of her caress; she will be your living end.

Mara Marietta