It was cold, and it rained, so I felt like an actor — on David Bowie
I had to wake my wife up this morning and tell her that David Bowie had died, a claim she didn’t believe at first.
“Where did you hear this,” she asked, still half asleep.
“I saw it on Facebook at first, but didn’t believe it. Then I read the headline on Pitchfork,” I told her.
My earliest memory of Bowie is the 1990 remix to the song “Fame,” which was featured on the soundtrack to the movie Pretty Woman; then, a few years later, his titular track on the soundtrack to Cool World.
My wife claims her first crush was David Bowie, thanks to his work as the Goblin King in the movie Labyrinth.
In looking back on my life, my wife and I, in our young lives, were always aware of David Bowie. I was aware of his weird industrial phase in 1995 and 1997, and his work with Nine Inch Nails. I remember when he toured with Nine Inch Nails; he jokingly said audiences thought it was cool that he was doing a Nirvana cover whenever he played “The Man Who Sold The World.”
But if I can pinpoint how my wife and I both got really into David Bowie, it probably started in late 2007, and it was all thanks to, believe it or not, an episode of that show “Flight of The Conchords.” There’s an entire episode where Bowie visits one of the characters in his dreams, and then, near the end, the duo perform a Bowie-esq number.
For a while before that, we had a “Best Of” compilation that we often listened to on long car trips, just because it was such a long CD and my wife wouldn’t have to change it something else for a while.
I wish I could remember why we felt it was time to just start buying every one of Bowie’s albums—but beginning with Hunky Dory and The Rise and Fall of Ziggy Stardust, that’s exactly what we did over the course of the next 9 months—stopping at Scary Monsters, and picking back up again with his 90s revitalization on Black Tie, White Noise and most recently ending it with the just released Blackstar.
But in getting into his music together, the way we did, we make it “our” thing—and that’s one of the things that make his passing so heartbreaking.
His canon has become music that we know by heart, and references from certain songs have worked their way into our daily lexicon—like the way he says “It’s Monday,” in a weird, newscaster deadpan on “Joe The Lion,” or the term “peoploids,” from the terrifying intro track to Diamond Dogs.
That was one of the admirable and impressive things about David Bowie: he could move you, he could make you believe in something great, he was charming and self-aware, and he could scare the shit out of you—sometimes all at once.
Some people discovered Bowie at a time when they needed someone like him the most—someone weird to tell them it was okay to be weird. They needed someone to get them through the rough times.
That was never Bowie for me.
Who was David Bowie to me?
The tricky thing about a celebrity death is how you let it impact you, and why you let it impact you. I didn’t personally know him, and it wasn’t like I knew him because of his music, but I allowed a large portion of my adult life to be influenced by him.
It’s naïve of me to think that Bowie was going to live forever, but I also never thought I would wake up and read the headline that he had struggled through an 18-month battle with cancer. For a guy that, at one time, lived on a diet of cocaine and milk, it doesn’t seem like the way he should have gone.
But he is gone. And what he leaves behind are his words and music—the obscure songs from this 1990s run of albums, like the overlooked Hours, which is what I am listening to right now as I sit on the floor of my living room, attempting to put my thoughts into words, as well as the classic, well-loved songs like “Heroes.” He left it all behind for us to continue to discover and rediscover on our own terms, and at the right time—at a time when we either need it the most, or it will resonate the most with us for the rest of our lives.