The Archer © 1976 John Rowlands.
David Bowie died last week and it hit me more than any celebrity death has to date. Already the world is moving on. Things to do, places to go, stuff to worry about … So, why am I still feeling the loss? It’s not the same feeling that would come with losing a family member or your best friend but is still a pervasive sort of sadness. I can’t claim to be his number one fan. I can’t tell you his entire catalogue. I didn’t listen to very much of his newer work and I certainly didn’t follow his every move on the personal front.
So what the hell?
I think it’s a combination of things. I grew up with Bowie for one. Ziggy Stardust and the Spiders from Mars is probably my second favorite album behind Pink Floyd’s Dark Side of the Moon. Throughout the years growing up and beyond into adulthood, there was always that distinctive, familiar voice. Sometimes singing a new song, more often heard on the radio singing an older one. A musician opining on Bowie’s legacy made the argument that just about any musician or group from the past 4 decades “had Bowie in their wheelhouse” in regards to what music inspired them. I would argue that anybody that listened to music has Bowie in their wheelhouse. His music seemed to touch everyone in some manner. You didn’t have to like it all, but there’s bound to be at least one song of his that you can catch yourself turning up or singing along to.
His music spoke to the freaks and the misfits in life. He made you feel like whatever you were going through was okay. Whoever you were was who you should be. I can’t claim this as original thought – I first heard it articulated on a CBC news panel talking about his life. The point made by the pundit was that in many ways, we all feel like misfits, not quite being “normal” and leading to why his music touched us all. It certainly did with me. I can’t tell you how many times as an angst-ridden teenager I would play some Ziggy and come away feeling much better about my lot in life.
Finally, I think the biggest reason I feel his loss is the bastard appears to be one of those rare, rare individuals who did what he wanted to do without compromising or selling out to anyone. Of course, we’ll never know for sure. Perhaps he was a calculating mad genius, scheming on how to milk us all for as much money as possible and taking direction from whoever could help him do that. But I doubt it. When you look at his career there was no staying in a rut. He took risks and did new things with almost every new album. And if his life’s work doesn’t convince you, just look at his final album and his death. Distinctive voice, different jazz-like style, and songs dealing with his death when no one knew he was sick.
What he did is not “go gently into the good night”.
Brilliant. I can only hope to do the same with my remaining years.
RIP you mad, crazy poet – thanks for salving my soul these many years.