When it happened, I kept quiet. I couldn’t do it. I couldn’t toss in my two cents. I couldn’t. At the same time I wanted everyone to know that I loved him too. That he was, actually, my rock star. Bowie fans do more than love him: they claim him, and I found myself no different. And when I looked around at the people also claiming their rock star, I saw people I understood. And that’s how he collected us. He didn’t look to the mainstream, he looked to the outskirts, the kids standing at the side, and that was his great gift: the ability to say to the outsiders: “You’re not alone,” and make us believe it. He knew that the cool kids aren’t the ones in the centre of the room, they’re the ones more at home in outer space.
I happened to be down in L.A. days after he died and went out with a friend to a Bowie night at a bar I like. A Bowie night. I hate even saying it. It seemed the right thing to do but it wasn’t. They played the songs, the popular ones anyhow, but it wasn’t my Bowie. Everyone danced with smiles of “remember this one?” I tried to fake it but I couldn’t be nostalgic for David Bowie; I have an actual relationship with this person. I’d never mourned a rock star before. Besides, he hated L.A.
The mourning goes on still. It wasn’t until just the other week that I finally bought “Blackstar,” let alone been able to sit and listen to it. He died last year on the night of January 10th but I awoke to the news on the 11th, which, unfortunately for my wife, is her birthday, which got eclipsed by the death of her husband’s idol. I recorded my day.
“Woke. Text-laiden. Lay back in bed. Stunned. Fuck no. Fuck everything. “The Rise and Fall of Ziggy Stardust and the Spiders From Mars.” All you need to know about rock n’ roll. Coffee. Stunned. Thoughts. Apologize to wife for being so sad on her birthday. “Hunky Dory.” Top to tail. “Diamond Dogs” through lunch. Favourites: “Heroes,” (original, then with Glass and Eno, then Aphex Twin remix, then Magnetic Fields cover...), “The Man Who Sold the World,” “All the Young Dudes,” and the newer “Conversation Piece”. Out in the car, stuff to do, “Space Oddity” on the radio. Later, finally at bar, finally acknowledging that I’m mourning something big here, headphones and “Low.” “Valentine’s Day.” Realize I had stopped listening to Bowie at some points. Many points. Why not? He didn’t care what I thought. I hated “Modern Love.” How had I forgotten “God Only Knows”? Walking to “Sound and Vision,” “TVC-15,” “Sorrow.” Take off headphones to hear someone playing “Absolute Beginners.” “Outside” walks me home, head down, hands in pockets. “Little Wonder,” and then “Let’s Dance” to change the mood. In bed, hear “Under Pressure” in apartment above. Now, darkness, headphones again, and “Blackstar,” “Lazarus” on repeat into the again and again. This is going to take time.”
It has and it is. Bowie is more than an artist; he is the artistic process. He is the point we strive for, always present, never repeating and not interested to. Next. Next. Next. Changes. What is now like? Let’s describe right now. Modern throughout, he chewed up zeitgeist like nobody else.
Every day I am sad he is gone. Every day. He was an extremely intimate voice in my life. He did more than speak my truth as an outsider, he nudged me on to embrace it. To me, he is the pinnacle of rock n’ roll. It was all a lead up to him, and after him is a dreary come down. There will never be another Bowie because there never can be. The world wouldn’t want it. In the last year I’ve also come to realize that he is not only the most important rock star I’ll share time on earth with, but also the most important artist, though that's a topic for another time. I'll get to it. In the next years.
My hero is dead.
It’s a year later and I’m sure I should be over this. I know my wife would like me to be. I will stop writing this now so that this year her birthday is about her. Seems fair to side with the living. But I won’t end with a song quote. He’d hate that.
I don’t care if you did drugs.
It’s quite normal to have a hard time due to any number of things. Perhaps you were born more sensitive to others and feel things too much. Perhaps that’s why you’re a great musician / actor / artist. Perhaps that’s why you knew you couldn’t do anything else except sing / play / act. Thank you for doing that. It’s amazing what you do. I love your music. I love your movies. Or maybe I don’t. Maybe I hate it. It doesn’t really matter. You’ve inspired me in ways you don’t know. In ways I don’t know. Thank you for doing it. You’re partly responsible for me being who I am, and for most of the people I surround myself with being who they are as well. I like them. I bet you would too.
I struggle too. Every day. To get through it. To express myself. To feel part of it. So please understand that I for one really don’t care how you choose to live. I don’t care if it kills you. It’s none of my business. I don’t care what you do with your days just like I don’t what colour / gender / sexuality / species you are, or care to identify with. I don’t care if you sit in the bath all day long or drink nothing but root beer. I don’t care if you’re selfish. I don’t care if you’ve been an asshole all your days. Well I kinda care about that. But not much. Not really. I’ve been an asshole too. I care much more about what you’ve made, about what you’ve left us with, about what impression you’ve made on this world and its people to come, and I want you to know that most probably, that’s what you’ll be remembered for in the long run.
If you linger on a bit after you die (do you? I don’t know. tell me?), please ignore the headlines. You already know what they’ll be. They have no impact on anything and will be forgotten as fast as the journalists that write those things about you. None of that matters. All that matters is that you found a way to make whatever it is you make.
So I’m not going to blame the year, I’m just going to thank you and celebrate you. I’m not going to judge you. I will be a little jealous of you. As I listen to your music. And watch your movies. Or your paintings. I’ll continue to be inspired by the life you lived. The honest life you lived. The artist’s life you lived.
I guess what I really want you to know is that you’re understood. I get it. We get it.
And by the way, if you feel more than other people, you’re bound to be an asshole sometimes. Don’t sweat it.
You were amazing.