“Oh no!” I said, aloud, involuntarily, as I opened Bing this morning. “What?” asks my Gamer Girl, concerned, hearing the sadness in my voice. “I just opened Bing.”
The Bing news highlight section has become a harbinger of death. If you see someone there, someone who is not otherwise newsworthy, they have probably died. Death is still newsworthy, even when for those who have become obscure.
“Oh no, it’s not Betty White is it?” She asked.
No. It is worse, much worse. It is David Bowie.
I know that losing those who have shaped your life is an inevitable part of the aging process. I’ve watched it happen to my Dad as his favorite artists have moved on. Isaac Asimov, Dick Francis, Dave Brubeck, more, all gone. Each time it seemed to me that his world was a little emptier.
It’s happened to me too. Lots of times. Roger Zelazny. Robert Jordan. Leonard Nimoy. Lots of people, lots of losses. And the world does empty, slightly, each time.
Except the world is such a busy place, new arises to replace the old. It is not the same of course, the new is different, sometimes worse. Nonetheless, life is not interested in my opinion, and it continues on, ebbing and flowing, good and bad, always changing.
But … David Bowie?
I wonder why this one seems so personal to me. Obviously I’d never met the man, he lived in a world that is so different than mine that he might as well inhabit an alternate reality.
I have no idea what he might have been like in real life, only those glimpses that we can pull from his work. He seemed like a caring sort, one who lived an authentic life rather than a plastic celebrity life, the rare luminary who was able to be famous without being consumed by it. He had a long marriage. He raised kids. Pretty grounded for such a famous guy. Or so he seemed, through the lens that he allowed us to use to view him, that which he crafted along with his PR reps and handlers.
When I was … 19? 20? I spent a year living in a tiny apartment in a small town that was a couple of hours away from Denver and my normal social circles. I had a roommate I’d found in the paper, luckily for me a really good guy named Bill. Bill was in this small town because he was following an older woman, a doctor if I remember correctly. I was here because I was following a sorority girl who had a sorority girl life to lead. We both had a lot of spare time. We quickly became good friends.
Bill was seriously into Bowie. Had all the albums and listened to them constantly. And therefore so did I. Diamond Dogs. Space Oddity. The Rise and Fall of Ziggy Stardust and the Spiders from Mars. Over and over.
An entire year passed that way, the two of us, broke and isolated, with little to do except sit in the apartment, get high, and listen to Bowie. It may sound grim, but it wasn’t, it was sort of glorious. Bill was an artist – he’d draw pictures, I’d write captions and stories to match. We raided a construction site for bricks and timbers to make haphazard furniture. We got a cheap dart board, hung it on the wall, and tried to teach ourselves how to throw daggers.
It was my Bowie year.
Life changed and so did Bowie. That was his best thing actually, the way that he was completely one way and then suddenly he was completely another. My Gamer Girl remarked how awesome it was that he wore makeup and glitter when no one else did, and then when he made it famous and everyone was in makeup and glitter, the next time we see Bowie, he is in a suit.
But there he was, always, doing something different, something creative.
Some of my favorite Bowie works are collaborations. He had the ability to elevate whoever he was working with into better, perhaps weirder, directions. And he worked with all kinds of people.
People you’d expect, like Mick Jagger (this was a pretty pedestrian combination, but by the ’80s Mick Jagger was a pretty pedestrian dude)
People you might not expect, like Freddy Mercury.
People you would never expect, like Bing Crosby.
My family was young when Labyrinth was released and we watched it over and over in the way that only young families with young children can. Endlessly. It may have been our favorite movie, as a family, more than Indiana Jones, more than anything.
Now that I am reminded of it, I really miss Jim Henson too.
Bowie of course is not really gone, everything he has done is still with us, and always will be. It seems he even choreographed his passing, creating a final album during his final year as a form of self-eulogy. Life – and death – as an art piece.
So there is nothing to miss. Not really.
I don’t recall ever thinking “David Bowie is out there, right now, creating something that will be completely different from what he’s created before, and I will probably really like it”. I didn’t have to think that, Bowie would remind me. By painting, or by releasing a new album or … something. One could not really predict what, but definitely something.
But in spite of all that, it is not really David Bowie that I will miss, I suspect, it is really me. The me that I was back when. The me that spent a year listening to Bowie albums. The me that raised children who loved the Labyrinth. Many more, there have been so many good times with Bowie as a backdrop.
And that I will definitely miss.
🙂 😀 🙂
p.s. I had planned to write something about how every time I go into Tempest Spine I feel like I am fighting David Bowie.
I have missed my window on that, I think.