I wrote -
Bowie is a genius - so there!
Adam wrote -
Hey! Watch your language! The G word is a big one to chuck around. I don't think that western pop/ rock has produced anyone who could be called a genius. The closest is Jimi Hendrix, I'd say - if only because his extraordinary guitar playing (still unmatched) seemed so effortless. But even then, Jimi used to practice ALL THE TIME. Beethoven was a genius - you try writing timeless and magnificent music when you're stone deaf! Django Reinhardt was a genius. Charlie Parker, maybe Miles. Maybe Franco. Even people like Munir Bachir or Vilayat Khan who were undoubtedly the greatest musicians of their time in their respective cultures (or at least, as far as I know they were) got where they were by sheer hard graft: practising eight hours a day for decades on end.
David Bowie hardly measures up. Very talented, yes, very clever, very canny and business savvy, certainly. But not a genius.
I agree, Adam - the G word is one that should be used very sparingly indeed and the fact that it isn't ("genius, mate, genius!") is only ending up devaluing it. But as I'm sure you realised - in the Bowie context - I was merely throwing back a school playground-ism at Garth to try to illustrate how little such statements further an argument.
But we could have an interesting tangent here: what is a genius or what constitutes a genius? Your posting suggests virtuosity combined with invention are the two main criterion for you? Personally I don't believe the former is as important as the latter.
Also perhaps we can talk of, say, Bowie as a genius, in the sense that we can say Bowie was 'a genius at assimilating many different musical styles and not only making them his own but also making of them something new which then influenced countless other musicians' - surely an artist's lasting influence has to high on the list of defining G characteristics?
Talking of which, we can add to Garth's list of Bowie's pop crimes (making 'Sioxsie & The Banshees, Marilyn Manson, 9 Inch Nails, Suede'the mostly unlistenable acts they are) some more obvious candidates: Gary Numan, Utravox, Japan, Simple Minds, Martin Fry, and more recently Arcade Fire, and a thousand other bands I've neither heard nor heard of. As someone once pointed out: bands have based whole careers on a single Bowie faze, or even just a single Bowie single! I mention this motley crew of Bowie clones just to point out how far-reach (and yes, in most cases I agree - damaging) his influence has been, and therefore how much he at least fits the criterion of lasting influence.
Sorry, I didn't mean to go on about Bowie again! He just serves as a useful place to start regarding the use or misuse of the G word. Over to you lot.