Updated Jan. 10, 2022
Revisiting this very personal post, six years later from the sudden death of David Bowie, I am still in tears. Not just for the tragic passing of this magnificent being, but because his legacy so strongly lives on today, perhaps stronger than ever. He is everywhere.
While I’m not a fan of mainstream commodification, seeing Bowie everywhere today makes me smile. All things Bowie have been marketed relentlessly. People who never knew much about this magical being beyond “Heroes”, or the significance of his now iconic lightning bolt, proudly wear his trademark across any merchandise. Just the other day I received a vitamin pack that came with an adorable set of stickers. My 4-year old quickly gravitated to the stickers and said “Mama, it’s Mr. Bowie!” as she proudly pointed at the now played out bolt.
In the past, all this Bowie consumption would have annoyed me. I would have scoffed and said “poseurs” under my breath. I’ve changed a lot since having a child and now when I see the commodification of David Bowie, I smile. I don’t think of all the poseurs, instead I think of David Bowie and now my daughter.
Truth be told, our daughter was magically (and by surprise) conceived at our Halloween party when my husband was dressed at Ziggy Stardust and I was costumed as Prince. Because of this, and my grand love for David Bowie, we named her after him: Victoria Bowie.
Now, every year, our little family of three honors David Bowie‘s birthday and death with a celebration. We buy a cake, sing happy birthday to him and even put on a performance.
“Gentleness clears the soul, love cleans the mind and makes it free.”
Original 2016 post below
As I sit here, listening to my favorite David Bowie songs and writing this post, I can’t help but feel so fucking sad. Last night, right before going to bed, I read the news of Bowie’s untimely passing. At first glance I thought (and hoped) it was one of those stupid online clickbait hoaxes. But it was not. It was fact according to David Bowie’s official Twitter account. The prettiest star, David Bowie died of cancer at the age of 69 on January 10, 2016, and everyone across the world felt the painful shock.
January 10 2016 – David Bowie died peacefully today surrounded by his family after a courageous 18 month battle… https://t.co/ENRSiT43Zy— David Bowie Official (@DavidBowieReal) January 11, 2016
From Facebook and Twitter, to my Instagram feed, all updates were inundated with this somber news. For once, I was not annoyed by the fact that EVERYONE was posting the same bit of news. Instead, it brought me joy to read memories about meeting Bowie or attending one of his concerts, and listening to my friends’ favorite Bowie songs. Without a doubt, David Bowie was in the hearts of us all. From the stay-at-home military wife, to the GRAMMY Award-winning musician — everyone felt the utter shock of Bowie’s death and took to social media to share their thoughts. It was absolutely beautiful and remarkable to see just how many different people’s lives Bowie had an effect on. It wasn’t just industry folk talking about the news, it was truly EVERYONE.
Usually, the whole “RIP” Facebook odes annoy the shit out of me. Partially because the people that usually post about these things (you know who I’m talking about) always have to make everything news worthy (especially in music) about themselves, and boast about how they had a deep connection to this person yet they probably haven’t been to one of their shows in years, let alone listen to their music regularly. They’ve never even met them. They are not friends. They are not acquaintances, but somehow they take it to their Facebook page to always make a RIP update about themselves, regardless if they’re truly a fan or not. But with Bowie, it didn’t matter. Most of us never had the pleasure of meeting the man, but for just about all of us, he emotionally left his mark in our lives through his music.
I couldn’t understand why I was in tears last night (and still am). Why do I care so much that another famed musician has passed. Sure, David Bowie is my all-time #1 favorite musician, but still, I’ve never met the dude, I’ve never even seen him perform live. I was always too young, too broke, or backpacking the world (reason for being too broke) when Bowie was alive and thriving on the live music circuit. So why the fuck is my heart so heavy? It feels like there’s a bowling ball in my chest weighing me down. My eyes keep swelling with tears and I can’t stop listening to his music and how it affects me.
As I listen to Bowie’s songs, each one sparks a memory in my life—attached to a person, place, even a fashionable outfit I once loved. And then I realize why I’m, along with so many others, are seriously heartbroken over Bowie’s sudden death.
Perhaps it’s because his music was there for us throughout our entire lives. We’ve experienced some of our darkest moments and our most beautiful memories through Bowie’s music. We’ve planned the celebration of our wedding to his music, we felt absolutely beautiful for the first time while listening to his music, we nursed a broken heart while singing along a Bowie track, we lost a loved one and Bowie was the soundtrack of his life, we related to him in some way, he inspired us to be our true selves … these are the reasons why we feel so emotionally attached to David Bowie’s departure.
From his unsuccessful 1964 debut single, “Liza Jane” (under the name of Davie Jones with the King Bees) to his stunning 2016 Blackstar release, David Bowie made music for over 52 years, spanning generations. And he didn’t just make music, he made really REALLY great music. It wasn’t just one style or one genre, he was a multi-faceted creature that had the ability to master any “sound and vision”. This is why his death has impacted so many. Everyone can relate a time in their life to a Bowie song.
Additionally, I feel that I am so saddened by his death, because somehow in the back of my mind, this Goblin King, this Thin White Duke, was indestructible. I had a friend on Facebook who could not have said it better: “The shock stems from what I imagine all of us felt, that he above all other artists was somehow immortal.”
To me, David Bowie was the most extraordinary musician that has ever graced this planet. He is irreplaceable and there will NEVER be anyone quite like David Bowie. The man was fearless and always thought way outside of the box with his music and fashion. From his early days in the U.S. as the “funny little white-skinned guy sitting in the corner,” Bowie stood out like a soar thumb with his striking ginger ‘do, makeup and platform shoes — he was quite the eccentric creature. Bowie grew to become a most influential singer-songwriter/musician, fashion icon, actor, and all-around extraordinary earthly alien.
Bowie paved the way for music videos. It’s actually quite facinating how far ahead of his time he was. As my fiancé shared on his Facebook page, “Before the 80s where the music video form came into its own, the definition of music video didn’t really exist outside performance and concert footage. Meanwhile, a decade ahead of the defacto trend to release a filmed performance for the purpose of promoting your single on MTV, David Bowie was filming ‘promotional films’ for his singles recognizing the future of the music industry was on the horizon. He was a true artist and visionary.” (Scroll down to watch a super rare video and recording of David Bowie’s promotional film for “Space Oddity.”)
So now we are left with a world without David Bowie. As selfish as it may sound, I am distraught that I will never see Bowie perform live. After receiving numerous press releases the past year in regards to Bowie’s new album Blackstar, I thought that maybe this year would be the year I’d finally see my #1 live. Little did I know he was secretly battling cancer, and that I, along with many fans would never get to see this gorgeous soul melt my heart with a live performance.
Needless to say, Bowie has left us all with his dazzling legacy. One that will shine and shimmer above all. The timing for Blackstar could not have been more perfect. It was Bowie’s final gift to his fans and a way of saying goodbye. Now, all of a sudden, the poignant and chilling “Lazarus” makes complete sense.
Rest in peace, David Bowie. You will always be my #1.
Words: Sandra Burciaga Olinger