Ashes to Ashes…

11 01 2016

Weather: Snow. Cold. January. All you need to know.

I’d intended to wait until tomorrow to post my annual HOLY CRAP AM I GETTING OLD post for my birthday, but then I woke up to a Facebook timeline filled with shock and sadness.

The Starman, the Thin White Duke…ZIGGY STARDUST…David Bowie had died. 

This didn’t compute. I just literally would not accept it. Bowie was made of stardust and alchemy and WAS NOT SUPPOSED TO EVER LEAVE US.  He was supposed to be Immortal, always the glorious inspiring chameleon, made of equal parts changeling, genius, elegance and mischief.

I spent a few minutes tearing up as the truth sunk in.  Told my husbeast. We were both stunned.  I posted my numb reaction. Liked a lot of other people’s posts, gobsmacked that every post both individual and community was  remarking on his passing. No one had known he was sick, that cancer had sunk it’s fucking awful claws into him. Eighteen months he’d been ill.  I’m glad his family was able to keep it quiet so he might have some peace in the end.

A new album, Blackstar,  had come out, and the husbeast and I had watched the latest video, for the single Lazarus, just this past weekend. We both noted the somber tone, the haunting visuals and that David looked….aged. More so than we remembered. It should have been a sign.

When Freddie Mercury passed, I felt a similar soul level pain. Both Freddie and David were more to me than just artists I admired, or musicans who’s songs I liked. They had been with me since I was a little girl. My first two “rock” songs that I’d heard were Bohemian Rhapsody and Fame. Needless to say, glitter rock and Glam would end up being a big chunk of my musical foundation.

Bowie was a constant fascination. Even though I may have not been a fan of every album release or single, I was always eager to hear and see what he was putting out. Bowie taught me to be brave with creative choices. They might not all work, but they were worth the risk to see if they could. Bowie was art to me. He was a living breathing gallery of possibilities that were never boring.

Later in life, when I began to understand things like gender fluidity and androgyny and looking at life with an nonjudgmental eye, I saw the Bowie legacy in the wide spectrum of friends I had in my life.

Just as my palate for food changed as I got older, my musical palate changed as well. I discovered I had new appreciation for songs that I dismissed when I was younger, saw complexity in the themes and  words and the intelligence behind both when I listened to his songs.

One particular memory popped up this morning. I remember seeing an interview with Tina Turner, back around the time of Live Aid, where she had just done a concert where David had shown up to perform “Tonight” with her. The interviewer had asked her what performing with Bowie was like. I remember Tina getting very quiet for a second, holding a hardcover book in her lap. She paused and seemed to pick her words very carefully.  “David is very smart.” she said, very quietly.” I asked him how he came to be so very smart, and he said, ‘I never stop learning. I never stop reading’, so I started reading everything I could get my hands on.”

I remember that interview so clearly, because Tina Turner seemed to have the same sort of humble admiration for the man that I did. Tina always joked about how she was one of the guys when talking about Mick Jagger and such, but when she talked about David, it was about this elegant gentleman who was so polite to her and she admired so much. That reaction stuck with me.

When Bowie married Iman, I was like, OF COURSE. Those two amazing people belonged together. Like a matching set of class and elegance and intelligence. It seemed like the Universe just smiled and said: Here you go. This is what you should aspire to be.

I was always so happy that the husbeast and I got to see Bowie live at the Area 2 concert. Watching Brian’s face light up with absolute joy when Bowie played Ashes to Ashes is one of my all time favorite memories. We felt like we were in some mystical church, awash in ardor for the man on stage.

Bowie was an inspiration to me on more levels than I can even begin to tell. I find it amusing that large swaths of my musical fan history is like playing One Degree of David Bowie. All paths lead back to the Goblin King.

The number of bands and musicians I liked that listed Bowie as a major influence was endless. Seemed like every time I found a band I liked there was an inextricable link back to Bowie, sometimes more than just one link.

I was a huge fan of Def Leppard starting in the mid 80s, and they were unabashed in their love of Bowie. Another band that I got into via Def Leppard were Mott the Hoople. Guess what? They did songs with David Bowie as well. Duran Duran? HUGELY influenced by Bowie. Nine Inch Nails? Trent Reznor was in a Bowie video and toured with Bowie. Even today, no one would deny Bowie’s tendrils wrapped around Lady GaGa. There are millions of bands today that have their roots in either the musical or artistic primal earth of Bowie’s influence.

(Not to mention the epic covers…Bauhaus & Bowie, forever linked in my mind for this and the opening of The Hunger. )

So why do I cry so hard at this man’s sudden disappearance from our lives?  Because he never stopped creating till the day he left, because, and I quote someone else in this, “He looked death in the eye and said, hey, I can use this”. His life and his art and his influence have inspired me so much over the years. He taught me to be brave creatively, to ignore the mediocrity of the mainstream, but find the nerve to wade into its midst and be stubbornly weird against the tide of obstinate conformity. Mostly though, Bowie made me feel like it was okay to be smart and keep learning and try things, no matter if others didn’t get it, because some might and in the end, that was enough.

I will miss him. I’m just glad for all the art he left for us. Someday maybe we’ll figure it all out, but I hope not. There’s magic in the mystery and wonder in the weird.





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