|David Bowie in the Young Americans Tour.|
Wikimedia Commons by Hunter Disportes.
I didn't grow up listening to David Bowie. I knew who he was, because it how could anyone go through the 80s and 90s without knowing who David Bowie was, but it was probably more because his sweet outfits broke through even the most conservative of Mennonite upbringings (and relative to conservative Mennonites, my family was pretty liberal).
The first time I really encountered David Bowie, though, it was in a parody. (Thank you, Flight of the Conchords! I bet you didn't realize that when you lovingly parodied a glam rock icon you would actually be introducing him to someone who was older than 10!) Like any good parody, it made me think that David Bowie was probably pretty great and motivated me to check him out.
When I looked him up, I was pleasantly surprised to find that some of the songs were actually familiar! The intro to Under Pressure, Heroes (thanks to Moulin Rouge), China Girl (thanks to The Wedding Singer), Let's Dance, Ch-ch-ch-changes. I knew some Bowie songs! I hadn't entirely missed a cultural icon! How nice.
If this were a proper tribute, now would be the moment where I talk about how I became huge fan and memorized his lyrics and learned to play his songs on the guitar and then finally created my own art, set free by Bowie's unhindered spirit.
In reality, I never really listened to him again. It's kind of strange that I didn't get more into Bowie. After all, he struck that nearly-impossible balance between artistry and fun, and his creativity is undeniable. There is no particular reason for the lack of Bowie in my life except that, I don't know, I guess I just wasn't in the habit of hanging out with his work?
Then, on Sunday, he passed away. The molecules and atoms that made up his body, that somehow managed to come together into the "self" that created all that incredible work, will dissolve back into the universe and become one with everything else again. Some of them might eventually grow into a really funny looking tree that grows very tall and very thin up to the sky.
It's always a bit strange when a celebrity dies. If they impacted your life, then it's heartbreaking, which can be confusing because you didn't actually know them. If they didn't really impact your life, it's still sad because they are a person and it's always sad when a person dies. It's that strange feeling of an acquaintance passing - an acquaintance who all your friends were very close with but you didn't really know that well. You feel there is a loss, and you see that loss much more pronounced in those around you. You feel some grief, mostly out of empathy for the grief that surrounds you.
To David Bowie, up there in space, I want to say thank you. Thanks for being the artist you were and for always just doing your thing and not caring about anything else. For not holding yourself back. It was very good for the human race to have an example of a person who didn't hold himself back AND had a sense of humour about things.