Listening: David Bowie

I was too young to remember Elvis dying.  I remember John Lennon’s death and how it affected others but I was too young to feel it.

I feel it.  It keeps hitting me.  I had to pause in class today when a student brought it up.  The people I saw on television in 77 and 80 make sense to me now. The grief you have for someone you never met and truly didn’t know can be just as powerful as it for someone you know intimately.

I keep trying to write my thoughts and feelings about David Bowie in this blog.  I’ve written and deleted five different versions.  Nothing seems to suffice.  I see tweets from more creative people say in 140 characters what I’m struggling to say.


His character studies from his first album developed into fully formed characters he became.  He was fearless.  He never really settled even in his low point creatively in 80s.  When I listen to the Cure’s Pornography, The Top, Head on the Door, Kiss Me, and Disintegration, I marvel at how they are all different from each other.  The same goes for The Bends, OK Computer, and Kid A by Radiohead.  How did they transform themselves so thoroughly while still remaining true to themselves?  Well, they had Bowie’s blueprint of course.

Bowie must have truly looked like he came from Mars to Nixon voters in the seventies.  He was the hero for the people that didn’t fit in.  Even when he became a pop star in the 80s, he ended up rejecting it for something he wanted to hear.

Iman said that she never fell in love with David Bowie.  He was just a persona, a character, like Ziggy, Aladdin Sane, and the Thin White Duke.  She fell in love with David Jones not the characters.  I have a feeling that to embody those characters, David Jones/Bowie had to truly know who he was and what he wanted his art to be.

My obsession for Bowie is recent.   It also came at the right time.  I was middle-aged and truly happy for the first time in my life. I found someone who truly loved me for being me.  Bowie reminded me that doesn’t mean I have to be normal.  My wife fell in love with the oddity, the kid who on the inside doesn’t feel like he fits in, the kid who doesn’t see the world as most people he knows.  Bowie reminded me that I didn’t have to be complacent.  He reminded me that personas are ok.  I can be one persona with my friends, another when I’m teaching, another when I’m writing this blog. I just have to let parts of me shine through. Most importantly, he taught me that I’m not alone. With those that truly love us, we have to be ourselves.  Because no matter how much things hurt or how much things are wonderful, all you can do is give them your hands.

Because we are wonderful.

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