I first wrote this piece on the day David Bowie died, the January 10th 2016. I planned to share it again on what would have been his birthday, January 8th, but I couldn’t find it anywhere. Now I’ve relocated it, I’m sharing again as it’s one of the pieces I’m most proud of – mainly as it’s so heartfelt and personal. Enjoy!
What David Bowie meant to me. I know there’s going to be hundreds of these, thousands even, that was the power of the man. But I equally feel the need to remember and thank the man I never knew who made such an impact on my life.
My first memory of hearing his music was in the car (the origin of most of my musical findings) aged 9 on the journey from Eastbourne to Legoland. My dad put on what we’ve since identified to be a cassette of ‘Best of Bowie 1969/1974. That moment of hearing ‘Rebel Rebel’ for the first time. My confusion at who he was singing about, his alternating of pronouns. The fact that even though I didn’t know the words (and wouldn’t for years to come) I could still sing along with the chorus, ‘Doo doo doo-doo doo doo.” I demanded that we listen to it on the way home too.
That was it for a few years. My musical allegiances (for better or worse) were with the often-barren wasteland of Top 40. A brief stint of loyalty to dance music concluding ‘coincidently’ with my growing fear of school. I hated it. Even the thought of school filled me with total and utter dread (the irony that I’m now a school teacher is not lost on me!) I feigned sickness, pretending all manner of illnesses so that I didn’t have to go into school. My attendance during year 11 dropped to 60%. Only now do I realise I wasn’t faking illness, but the fact illness could be mental and not just physical was an unknown entity. That’s when Bowie, in the form of Ziggy Stardust, reappeared.
He looked just as a strange as I felt I did, and he had the same hair colour as me! I could plug into his music and be transported, healed by his words and drift away to a world that scared me a little less than the one I lived in.A musical obsession started to form as I delved deeper into his back catalogue and idolised every song, quote and image I discovered. I even renamed (and have kept) my phone’s bluetooth as Major Tom and my laptop as Ground Control. At University when my taste started to remould, and my a petulance for the 1950s emerged, there was The Thin White Duke. A late-in-life discovery of Labyrinth soon after.
Then came the first six months of 2014. They were the darkest days I had ever felt and they had come out of nowhere. It felt like an inescapable black cloud was above me, carrying around an incomprehensible weight on my shoulders, leaving me as an empty void. A shell of my former self. I was desperate. Scared. Hopeless. That’s when Bowie proved he still had more to give me- calling out “You’re not alone” during ‘Rock and Roll Suicide’. Recovering from that time in my life wasn’t made easier by that song, nothing can make that internal battle ‘easier’, but it was a bright speck, a light in a world that seemed so dark and so lonely.
So yes, I feel bitter and sad. Angry even, that I’ll never get to see him perform. The ‘what would I do if I met David Bowie’ fantasy no longer has the same relevancy or potency. But his music is still here. His art is still here. And I’m beyond thankful that I’m lucky enough to have found an artist who I connected with so strongly, who emboldened me when I felt that I couldn’t go on. Whose music possess the power to send me to the dancefloor no matter how sober I am or how empty the dancefloor is. We may have lost a legend but I, we, haven’t lost that legacy.