In a life where I’ve had little in the way of constants I can recall his presence in the background for 2 decades.
To me, he was a hero. He was a man I had hoped for decades to meet, to thank, to continually gain inspiration from and take comfort in through the messages his music carried. It's taken some time but I did come to understand that none of that has been taken away. He's still with us in so many ways and I can take some comfort in that.
When I was in primary school we had an exercise I remember more vividly than any other class I’ve ever taken. We had to close our eyes, listen to several snippets of music, and just imagine. We had to just see what the music made, how bright and fantastical or dark and horrifying an image it could create. This little musical adventure was my first exposure to Grieg’s “In the Hall of the Mountain King”, long before I’d ever encountered the Alton Towers ads. I heard Prokofiev’s “Dance of the Knights” and had dark but alluring dreams for weeks. It brought me Starman and a voice I came to love but wouldn’t identify for another 6 years, though it would crop up time and time again, much to my excitement and curiosity.
It was when we moved to Canada that I finally learned his name and threw myself into his discography, happy to find so many familiar songs from years prior, learning the lyrics and enveloping myself in his ever changing sound. During those awkward early stages my growing love for all things Bowie was one of the most important bonding moments for me and my stepdad. We shared music as a family and it was beautiful.
Most of my solo visits to the mall found me carrying a cassette player with Loving the Alien and 1984 on repeat - very slowly, mind you, given how I’d have to patiently rewind every single time. I feared destroying the thing, but my love for the songs apparently outweighed that.
When I was 15 and at the beginning of what would be a 4 year long incredibly deep love of visual kei I pretty much abandoned all other music beyond the likes of D’espairsRay, Dir en grey, Malice Mizer, Lareine...and yet two artists managed to remain: Queen and David Bowie. All of my major phases - in music, in personality, school, homes, countries, fashion...David Bowie was always there in the soundtrack to my life, punctuating many of the most important events, lyrically relevant in the most bizarre ways, inspiring me to be greater and bolder.
Going to Brixton was one of the most painful slaps in the face but it was hugely important. The crowd gathered was still strong, the sheer volume of gifts and messages left at the mural was heartwarming in both the volume and the creativity, so many little nods to the lyrics and the little sayings he came out with over the years. What made me smile through the tears was the advertisement spread across the window of Morley's next to the site - Iman Cosmetics, spattered with photographs and messages of love just the same. It felt as surreal as it did painfully final, as though it was too accurate, too perfect a simulation of what would be a long way in the future...whilst also confronting me with what I had begun to dream was just an elaborate hoax. Media, particularly these days, is swarming with such things after all.
I'm off to Amsterdam tomorrow night to make my way north to the Groninger Museum. This is the last showcase of the David Bowie Is exhibit and another way of saying goodbye in a way. As hard as it's going to be, I'm looking forward to seeing everything up close and connecting a little more to one of the most unique minds in pop culture history.
I feel as though all of these words still don’t encompass everything his music means to me, the influence he has had on my life and I’m sure still will, nor how crushing it is to know that he’s gone and there’s nothing more to be said or sung...
That morning, before the news broke, I was walking and listening to Low for the first time in forever, and I had such a grin on my face that I probably looked like a lunatic in the dim light...and I was wondering if there was even a remote chance he’d ever tour again, or at least do a handful of gigs. I was crushed when I missed the Reality Tour when it stopped in Calgary and seeing him live was one of the biggest things on my fairly short bucket list. I suppose there’s probably some irony in that...
I’m just so very glad he gave us all so much and continued giving until the very end. I’m so very thankful for Blackstar, as painful as it is to hear. Even through that tightness in my chest and the tears I still can’t help but shed at the most random times...I’m so thankful that 20 years ago he entered my life and taught me so much.
I know that I can't even begin to know how you all feel, but I do know that grief eases. The memories will never fade, the love will always live on, and one day you'll be smiling from a photograph or a sparked memory and everything will be okay. I wish you above all else peace and I know in my heart it shall be yours in time.