David Bowie's death hit me hard, much harder than it should have. I wanted to wait a bit before talking about him, because I wasn't sure why I felt so gutshot when I saw that he'd died. After all, I wasn't really a fan of his music.
Rather than follow his career, Bowie seemed to follow me, strange as that may sound. I remember his Ziggy Stardust days, but I was too young and unworldly to understand Bowie's sly digs at the music industry ... and the fans.
Whereas Frank Zappa was loud and in your face with his disdain, Bowie was more subtle. He was always there, like a shadow in my peripheral vision, mocking us and our music with sly winks and nudges. The reason he never came off as offensive is because he seemed to be laughing with us, not at us.
He seemed to be saying: It's all spectacle--flash and glam--I am here to entertain you with music disguised as your dreams, and if I can poke a little fun ... well ... all the better for you and for me ... Let's dance.
The mockery ended when it came to his music. Even though his style never appealed to me, I never doubted Bowie was an artist of the finest nature. He knew how to mix sound and visuals to stimulate our senses. And somehow, throughout all the small asides and quips, he seemed to make his music seem to be about us, but I don't think that was the case at all.
His music was about him. He simply spoke so eloquently, we wanted to make his words into our own.
Bowie, like all artists, used his music and visual styles to explore the world around him. He was exceptionally perceptive, even as a young man, of people and our many foibles. One thing I'm sure he learned early, is that all people are narcissistic to a certain degree. We respond to books, music, and films, that seem to speak to us about us.
Like Bowie, we are always looking for reflections of ourselves in the world.
It's weird, or maybe not so much, but the first Bowie song I remember was "Space Oddity"--about fame and a man who was dying in space. The final Bowie song that remains lodged in my heart is "Lazarus," which is Bowie, examining his own death creeping up on him as he tries to finish the the things that have meaning.
If anyone could come full circle so powerfully, it would be Bowie.
And while he might have been saying goodbye to us with Black Star, I think that is us once more making his music about us. He articulated the moments that had meaning, and we took them for our own.
Not selfishly, mind you.
Bowie offered them to us, like all poets do, freely, and we gobbled the songs and the lyrics, thinking they would never end. And in manys they won't.
Bowie's star might be black, but it will continue to shine, and I am glad, because we need artists to inspire us--both in life and in death.