I wrote this on Monday and sat on it for a few days, but decided after a round of editing to leave as is. There are so many memories that I could have added, but it would have most likely resulted in a memoir of sorts, so I shall post it now so that it can find its place amongst all of the other stories about this special man who became a legend and a hero for so many.
I was 7 or 8 years old and we were practicing our (Christmas?) play at school when our hip new teacher (Mr. Adams, I still remember his name), decided we should add a choreography to the first act. He chose Bowie’s Space Oddity, and we all had to dance around like robots. I was so happy about it because I knew my dad was coming and I hoped that he would like us doing something a little less boring than the usual kids’ songs. I was also very familiar with Bowie, hearing him played at home all the time, so it felt really great for home and school to collide a little. I don’t have many memories of being excited to show or tell my dad something as he died when I was so young, so I will always see him sitting there, dark glasses and mohawk, completely and wonderfully out of place amidst the other parents. I’ve since thought how painfully perfect that was, Space Oddity and being out of place amongst others. I think it’s something that was passed along the line somehow.
Another young memory involves Bowie and Mick Jagger and that terribly happy and fantastic video for Dancing in the Street. I remember it being on the telly all the time and I just loved seeing these two artists singing together and literally dancing their feet off in the streets. I remember already admiring both artists at the time, but I don’t know if that is just because my parents listened to them a lot, or if I really just loved them (I was also in love with George Michael at the ripe old age of 6 so I wasn’t all that cool, and that was in no shape or form due to my parents). I really owe my music roots to my parents, that gift of great music is one that will never, ever be forgotten. Anyway, Dancing in the Street just pulls you up on your feet and makes you dance around with abandon, letting loose and letting go. 31 years after its release and it still has the same effect on me. Incredible.
I still have a tape with Bowie’s earlier hits on it that would be played on a loop during my last few years at university (along with Marilyn Manson’s Mechanical Animals, Tim Buckley’s Greatest Hits, Tom Waits’ Used Songs and Bob Dylan’s Desire). Life on Mars? is still and always will be my favourite Bowie song. There are so many possible interpretations but I love the underlying sadness battling with the need to escape, rebel, and evolve. Look at the bigger picture and follow your own dream. And I’ve always loved the Lennon/Lenin reference for some reason. Maybe just the working class reference, I don’t know. I won’t ever forget where I came from, and I think Bowie is a fabulous example of what you can make of yourself when you create new limits. (Oh and I am keeping all of my tapes for my kids to use – I loved inheriting all of my parents LPs, so maybe they will like my tapes and CDs).
New York City has always been full of Bowie for me. From demanding China Girl at Darkroom, to dancing away to Suffragette City at The Annex, to guest DJing the Rebel Rebel party at Lit, as well as walking all the way down Park Avenue listening to the entirety of Let’s Dance just to get away from reality for a while. I remember slipping a Sisters of Mercy tune after a Bowie hit and the crowd continuing to dance like mad, and realizing just how big of an influence he was on music in general, not just pop or rock but many, many genres. Back in the 90’s in France when I was a hardcore metal and goth fan and my sister was into illegal raves and dance parties we would all meet in the middle with Bowie. Modern Love and Let’s Dance will always bring me straight back to the mid 90’s and those parties that Karli and I would tend to throw when our mother was out of town on business.
I give my father and step-father a lot of credit for my music tastes, but when I think about it properly my mother should get a huge chunk of that credit. Without her who knows when I would have discovered my love for Tim Buckley or Stevie Nicks or the Sisters of Mercy (and therefore The Cure and Nick Cave and Hole and so on and so forth). Because of her (and thanks to her) I don’t have any memory of David Bowie not being in my life. He’s always been there, as simple as that. I think everyone has a few artists who have always been there, threaded through their lives, appearing, maybe moving out of sight for a while, reappearing in times of need or joy, taking you through the good and the bad and making such an impact that he, she or they feel like a part of you. Bowie was one of these artists for me.
His ability to be take his talents and make something that would continuously touch so many people, and then go back to the drawing board and reinvent himself into something equally, if not even more, original and wonderful was amazing. There hasn’t ever been someone who continued to enlighten, engage and push boundaries like he did. All while still remaining himself. There is only one David Bowie: an inspiration and a talent who will most likely never be matched. And that’s fine, because even if we don’t become legends we should at least thrive to be as prolific and creative as he was, all the while pushing those walls away.
There is a meme going around that says “If you’re ever sad, just remember the world is 4.543 billion years old and you somehow managed to exist at the same time as David Bowie.” – which, when you think about it is pretty exceptional, no? And maybe some of us got to see him rise to stardom in the late 60’s, early 70’s, like my mother, some of us were born with his music, like me, and maybe others discovered him along the way, all of that doesn’t matter. What does matter is how he always managed to touch each and every one of us in some way or another. All I can say is that wherever I am in my life there is and will always be a Bowie song that happens to fit perfectly with the moment.
It’s in times like these when social media really shows its beautiful side… All of my newsfeeds and Twitter feeds and whatever else there is, are continuous tributes to David Bowie. Memories, videos, stories and photos and it really warms my heart to see so many friends from different parts of my life equally as devastated by his death and as touched by his life as I am. Let him be an inspiration to us every day to never stop creating, pushing our boundaries, and to never stop smiling, even at the end.
And now I shall go and play his last gift to us, Blackstar, hoping that my daughters will appreciate his legacy and what he meant to us as much as I do one day, and then we shall watch Labyrinth. January 11th will forever be David Bowie day in this house.
I added photos by Mick Rock because I adore him and his photography (I once embarrassingly asked him for a hug when he was quietly having a drink at the bar, not my greatest moment, although he did give me a huge bear hug!). I can spend hours browsing through his amazing portfolio.