It has been about two months since the passing of David Bowie and I have to remind myself quite frequently that he’s gone. David Bowie was basically an ethereal being who came to Earth and graced us with the gift of his music.
For many fans, his lyrics hold a special place in their heart. His lyrics helped outsiders feel normal. For me, and like many others, David Bowie saved my life. He was the only person who knew what to say when I needed it the most. In October 2010, I listened to Ziggy Stardust and the Spiders from Mars for the first time. It blew my mind to put it simply. Those last three songs were the kicker: “Ziggy Stardust,” “Suffragette City,” and “Rock ‘n’ Roll Suicide.” It was like three blows to the face and I wanted, no needed, more.
Freshman year of college is difficult. It is your first taste of independence and everything is so new. People will rave about how college is the best time in your life and I had looked forward to that. But when I actually did start college, I felt so out of place. I had friends but I felt so different from them that it made me feel lonely. My parents were so far away that a phone call was not enough to make me feel better. On top of that, I grew up with the dream of getting a business degree and working my way up to be the CEO of Fortune 500 company. But by the time October came around, I didn’t want to go to any of my classes and everything felt so wrong. I had lost touch with who I was and I did not know how to figure myself out again. I felt lost in the world, lost to myself, and absolutely alone.
I went back to the Ziggy Stardust album and it was the last track “Rock ‘n’ Roll Suicide” that changed my life. “You are not alone/You’re wonderful,” he sang loud and clear. I replayed that bit over and over again. I was not alone. I would never be alone. And above all, I was wonderful, I would be okay. It put everything in perspective. David Bowie saved me. He picked me up, brushed me off and told me I could whatever made me happy. It meant so much to me.
So when he passed away in January my heart broke along with the hearts of millions of fans. The amount of moments like mine about how David Bowie had been there for us when we felt like no one else was overwhelming. It was a blow we all personally felt because he meant so much to us, not just as a musician but as something beyond that, something that cannot even be captured by words.
Immediately after his passing, the Internet was flooded with reactions. Celebrities released personal essays of how Bowie’s music and person touched their lives. Dave Grohl and Pat Smear (of former grunge band Nirvana fame) drove around Los Angeles stopping by past David Bowie’s old haunts and retelling stories of the Thin White Duke. Hall & Oates shared how they once got drunk with Bowie at the Playboy Mansion in the 1980s. Lady Gaga performed with producer Nile Rodgers at the Grammys a highly theatrical tribute that was in all essence the definition of Bowie. Lorde performed a touching rendition of “Life on Mars?” with Bowie’s backing band at the Brit Awards that made everyone shed a few tears. Gary Oldman and Annie Lennox shared loving words of the lasting influence. Iggy Pop, Bruce Springsteen, and many more artists have taken time during their own concerts to sing a Bowie tune or two. Every one took it upon themselves to honor the legend in any way they could.
It’s hard for anyone to wrap their heads around the man who was David Bowie. Every album came with a new Bowie persona. Every fan has their favorite era, favorite song, favorite cover he did, favorite album he produced for someone else, favorite movie. There was just so much to him that even after his death we are all learning something new about his life and each time it feels like I’m just discovering him for the first time all over again. Like how I felt that first time I heard “Fame” or first seeing the Aladdin Sane album cover. Or that first time I watched Labyrinth and couldn’t help but stare at his… uhmm… pants. Just his being meant so much to me like it did to so many others. His death only reminds us of those moments when he meant the most to each of us.
I think we owe it to David to not dwell on his passing, but to take nearly 50 years of influence and stardust and share it with the world. Let us remember the icon he was and how he changed music and fashion. Let us share our creative minds and rock and roll hearts with people who never had the chance to understand his work. Let his influence guide us into a new future. Though we may never replicate what David has done, but let us honor his memory by sharing what he gave us over all the years with the world.
So let’s dance (pun intended) and sing to our hearts’ contentment. Run and skip through the streets to the sounds of “Modern Love” just like in the film Frances Ha. Subtly approach someone and tell them, “You remind me of the babe.” Practice your fashion walk and Blue Steel with your goon squad to “Fashion.” Stare at the stars and wish that the Starman would come and save you. But most importantly, remember. Remember his genius and his influence. Let it inspire you to create greatness. If we match even the tiniest bit of his talent, then the stars are not that far out of reach.
Thank you, David, for everything. I hope we can make you proud.