“Heroes” by David Bowie (with Brian Eno) (1977)

26 08 2008

This track has been one of my best friends for a long time now.  It manages to capture desperation, courage, and hope in mere minutes.  The arrangement is lush, driving, and strong, without beating you over the head.  Bowie’s vocals start rather subdued, until, by the end of the song, he’s practically shouting.

This was recorded in 1977, during Bowie’s “Berlin period,” when he lived and worked in the great German city.  At the time, Germany was divided by a literal and figurative wall put in place by the East German government to keep its citizens in.  Berlin was also split, although in reality, West Berlin was completely surrounded by East Germany.

How does this relate to the song?  Well, this division of East and West Germany happened fast.  Families and friends were cut off from each other, with literally no chance to see them again.  It was a pretty desperate time for a lot of Europeans.  But Bowie created, for me, an image of two lovers, caught on the wrong side of history, who still have each other.  And together, they can be heroes, if only for one day.

So when this song comes on—anywhere, anytime—it takes me there, standing with my lover in front of my personal Iron Curtain du jour.  Throwing my shoulders back, I could shout for all the world to hear:  “We can be heroes!”

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