I always figured he was immortal. And then I heard the news.
My immediate reaction was a deep sadness – the natural reaction when you lose another who means something to you. Then, almost immediately, I was hit with a wave of what I can only describe as relief. The relief turned to a joy.
David Bowie in 2016 means something, just the same way David Bowie in 3016 will mean something. David Bowie’s music – his force – transcends time and space. Ziggy Stardust is eternal. David Bowie Lives. He was here before me, and he’ll be here long after I’m gone. That thought consoled me. I can only hope the future inhabitants of Earth give him a chance, just like his contemporaries did.
Throughout his career, Bowie was an extremely active musical collaborator. He’s teamed up with just about everyone in the game over the years – Queen, John Lennon, Iggy Pop, Lou Reed, Trent Reznor and Arcade Fire, to name a few. He was known by his fellow artists to be one the most gracious, fun, exploratory and interesting collaborators in music and art.
He was also extremely dedicated. The musicians of the Donny McCaslin Quartet, who played on Blackstar, his final album released only days before his death, remarked on his passion and drive. Despite his illness, Bowie would spend five hours a day in the studio before going to Lazarus rehearsals. They hardly even knew he was ill.
Tim Lefebvre, the quartet’s bassist, said, “I don’t know where he found the strength. It’s amazing. … It never looked to us like he was sick. He was just coming in and singing his ass off.”
I want to reflect on the phenomena of his pervasive life force. The details of our memories of Bowie, how he played a role in our lives, and what Bowie mean to each of us are undoubtedly different. What is shared by all who felt that force, is that feeling he gave us; the indescribable subtle joy, curiosity, confusion, all mixed into a cosmic slop of art and beauty and sex and love. Something you can’t quite put your finger on, but something know you want to be a part of.
Neil Young once said, “It’s better to burn out, than to fade away.” In the music industry – hell, in society – where burning out and fading away are often the only two options, David Bowie refused to do either. The man inspired. Innovated. Invented. Reinvented. Over and over again, constantly pushing boundaries, all while somehow not only staying relevant, but a tastemaker. Even a Zeitgest.
He is the bisexual alien rock superstar, the prophet messenger of the extraterrestrials to Earth. He gave us the confidence to be weird. He gave us that indescribable feeling. The feeling that it was OK to feel however you wanted. Ziggy Stardust is eternal. David Bowie Lives.
So, as the media waves drift back out to sea and the post-mortem homages die down, I hope what lingers are the memories of that feeling he gave us.
Special thanks to Steven Lesser.