Monday, January 11, 2016

The Stars Look Very Different Today

When a much-loved, long-time celebrity dies, those who know me have heard me say that "another chunk has been ripped from my childhood." When I woke this morning to news of David Bowie's passing, I thought to myself, "Ripped? Try ruthlessly gouged."

I can't much remember my life without Bowie's music. Space Oddity intrigued me as a little girl, especially because I have a brother named Tom. I remember listening to it and imagining what it must be like to be floating in space with no hope of return. Oddly, it was a feeling that I could understand - that feeling of distancing, of not being part of the "normal" world.

However, it wasn't until the release of Diamond Dogs in 1974 that I fell head over heels in love with Bowie's music. I was 13 and at the age where I was beginning to make my own music collection. I bought the record and I played it to death in my bedroom on my plastic portable record player. To realize the impact that Bowie had on me you have to understand that the album was a vast departure from my usual fare. Until then, I had steeped myself in the likes of John Denver and Neil Diamond. Suffice it to say, anyone looking at my record collection back then wouldn't have seen Bowie as the next logical step.

I bought it because I liked his name. Seriously - David Bowie - what a cool name! I also liked how bizarre the album cover was. I knew nothing about the music. To my credit, this - buying an album or book based on its cover - is how I've discovered some tremendous music and literature, as was the case with Diamond Dogs. I brought the album home, spun it on my shabby little "stereo" and got completely lost in it. It was different and Bowie's voice had that come-with-me Pied Piper quality. I would have followed him anywhere.

And I did. I bought nearly everything he released over the years. The forms changed from records, to cassettes, to CDs, to mpg downloads, but the music remained sturdy and steady. I never grew out of his songs the way I have with some others. They come back to me and make sense to me in different ways at different ages and moments in my life. That, friends n' neighbors, is true artistry. His recording of Little Drummer Boy with Bing Crosby made me love a song that I thought was utterly boring. He put out great rock n' roll tunes and then did a feature movie with muppets, Labyrinth, which I loved. Come on, muppets paired with really cool music and dark, creepy undertones? Nobody but Bowie could have pulled that one off.

The list could go on. It comes down to this: My love for Bowie's music and his sometimes peculiar brand of genius spans half a century. So, I sit here in tears as I type this, feeling as though something tremendous in my life has been torn away. And yet, it hasn't really. I still have all the music. I still have access to that genius. I have all the words and songs and images to feast on, and what a feast it is.

A mash up of two different Bowie tunes sums up my feelings this morning,

As the world falls down...
Planet Earth is blue and there's nothing I can do.

Thank you, David Bowie, for the impressive soundtrack you gave to my life. "I'll stick with you baby for a thousand years."