David Bowie is dead.
I’ve seen those four words, in some order with a few other words sprinkled in, numerous times in the past twenty four hours.
It still isn’t resonating to me. To me, it just seems like we are entertaining some new avant-garde piece that the reclusive icon is focusing on. We will call him dead, and then he will rise with a new ten-minute piece filled with corpses, half-dead zombies and a smirk.
But that isn’t happening.
I could wax poetic about his career, the so-called “chameleon” of rock and roll even though I find that concept to be selling the man short. A chameleon implies that he was blending into his surroundings as opposed to motherfuckin’ owning the place. David Bowie wasn’t a chameleon, that’s left to the inferiors. David Bowie was the landscape that all the chameleons wanted to blend into.
Usually when rock stars die after their commercial peak, we tend to focus on that. We focus on the early career and then try to summarize the aftermath. Let’s keep in mind that this was David Bowie. Yeah, the Billboard singles chart has long left him but this is a man that still captured our imagination and earned our attention. We heard the influences, we saw Michael C. Hall singing on Colbert, and we all talked about the new music. Very rarely does the “old” artist still command the same respect without being labeled a nostalgia act.
But I’ll talk about his music later this week solely. Let’s move on to why I’m writing this piece to be read by five other people.
I guess the best way to kind of talk about a loss is by talking about what this means to me and those around me. Look….I don’t know the guy and he will always be a stranger to me. I have no idea about his private persona, his beliefs, or anything else and for me to act like I’m a victim is a horrific injustice to his family, friends, coworkers, etc.
David Bowie was a stranger who has no idea I exist.
But the impact he left on me is shocking. I cried last night over a stranger. My mom was a wreck as this is her Grateful Dead. She was young when the Beatles were the group, but she aged with Bowie. That was a contemporary to her, not someone who was a bit more removed.
David Bowie bridged the gaps between generations. My first exposure was through my parents and all I really knew growing up was Changes, China Girl, Let’s Dance, Heroes (cause of the Wallflowers Godzilla song) and Fame. But they were catchy, Changes was in a Shrek movie, and as any preteen (or barely thirteen year old who is starting to like music) would say “oh he’s my favorite classic rock artist” because children are shitty people who calls everyone a favorite.
David Bowie was the soundtrack to our annual 1,000 mile trips to Walt Disney World. He was what my parents would play on the radio (The Best of Bowie was my first Christmas gift for my mom, when I was like nine and my Dad asked what I should get her) when they were cleaning. He was the artist we’d watch on the VH1 Classic channel when we were trying to find shit to watch.
As I grew older, it shifted. It was the first CD I listened to when I first learned how to drive and then my interest in other songs started to grow. Rebel Rebel became probably my favorite song of all time and I think I’m the only one of my friends who loves Ashes to Ashes.
I started looking up old Rolling Stone articles and NME posts about the man in his heyday. I got to learn about the Thin White Duke, Ziggy Stardust, Tin Machine and the Berlin era. It became a bit of an addiction to start learning all I could about some singer who made a lot of songs I liked twenty years before my birth.
Then David Bowie became the soundtrack of our Saturday nights. I have a tendency to force my music beliefs on anyone who is around because I’m arrogant and think I know everything and am a child. But we grew to jam out to Modern Love, Moonage Daydream, Life on Mars and Suffragette City.
There was a time in my life when I first lived in a house with my college friends where musically, it was perfect for me. All my favorite current artists (Strokes, Killers, Kanye, Jay-Z, Vampire Weekend and Arctic Monkeys) dropped new stuff at the same time. It was my senior year and I felt on top of the world.
But Bowie still stole the spotlight, as I rediscovered the Ziggy Stardust and the Spiders From Mars just in time for The Next Day to drop.
My winter break was just constantly listening to this new stuff and trying to determine how I felt about it. It just seemed soo…..perfect. The Stars Are Out became one of my most-played iTunes tracks and while I still went back with the classics, I started feverishly anticipating the new albums.
Every time I heard a Bowie news bit, I would retweet and share the shit out of it. Half of my social media feed is really AV Club or NME Bowie updates.
I eagerly anticipated Blackstar and loved the darkness of Lazarus.
I made a joking comment on how its awesome that Bowie was 69 because that number makes me laugh. Two days later, I stumble upon a bunch of RIPs and hoped to anyone that it was one of those hoaxes. “He can’t be dead, he was in a music video!”
But as we know….music will never be the same. Those songs that brought joy, now bring back the memories of what will never happen again. Now it’s all just in the rearview mirror forever.
Memories are amazing, but the pain of knowing that you can’t recreate your most perfect moments is bittersweet. Sure great things are ahead and lord do we know the fun we are going to have as we age, but there’s something comforting about what once was.
RIP David Bowie. You deserve every tribute.