I don’t even know where to start with this one. A couple of days ago, I lost one of my personal heroes.
I consider my first real introduction to David Bowie to be the time I heard “The Heart’s Filthy Lesson” on the radio way back in 1995. I was in high school and my musical tastes were just coming into their own, but I knew the second I heard it, I was on to something. It tapped straight into the dark, layered aesthetic that I already had swimming around in my head, but couldn’t articulate. I rushed out and got Outside, which would go on to become one of my favorite albums of all time, and followed that up by snatching up anything and everything I could find with his name on it, starting with Low.
I went very much out of order, but I didn’t care. I devoured his discography, and it quickly became apparent that this alien who I’d known only by name and reputation had written song after song that spoke directly to me. It was like someone had reached into my brain and set my mind to music. He both saw the world as I did and somehow gave me a whole new way of looking at it. It wasn’t just music. It was a distant kinship.
I was one of those stereotypical artsy misfits in high school. I never scored the pretty girls or hung out with the popular kids, but I had my own identity that I cultivated and guarded. I soon took a certain private pride in being the only kid in school who could recite every lyric to every song on Hunky Dory. I was a loner and a weirdo and Bowie let me and the rest of us loners and weirdos know it was ok.
I could go on further about his importance and relevance, but it in the coming days and weeks, the internet will be full of those types of tributes, written by people who are much more eloquent than me. I will say though that he was not only my personal favorite musician of all time, but also one of my biggest influences and obsessions. He managed to create and transcend style, always managing to stay three steps ahead of anyone else. Just when you thought you’d finally solved the slippery riddle of what it took to be “cool”, he reminded you that he’d already redefined the word twice while you weren’t looking.
You simply can’t escape his influence. Hell, my best friend named her daughter after him. That kid’s going to be the coolest kid in school one day.
We can take solace in what he left behind – over thirty years of pure genius. Yes, there were a couple of missteps along the way (you don’t put out that kind of volume without having a few misses), but cousin, when the hits hit, they hit. My only regret is that I never got to see him perform live.
Thank you, David Robert Jones (Bowie). Thank you for literally changing my life and leaving behind one of the greatest musical legacies since the inception of rock and roll. And thank you for the parting gift of Blackstar, an album that not only acts as a fitting goodbye to his fans, but a flawless and poignant reflection of a man at the end of his career and life. You had a good run, buddy. Thank you for all of it.