David Bowie was so legendary, so influential and so… otherworldly that I think I assumed he would always be here. It just didn’t seem possible that a man who seemed both timeless and not of this earth, could actually go. A week later, I’m still shocked by his death.
My first exposure to David Bowie was his performance as Jareth, the Goblin King in the wonderful Jim Henson film Labyrinth. Labyrinth was one of my favourite childhood films and I rewatched it at any given opportunity, so Bowie was a regular presence in my formative years. As Jareth he was beguiling, unnerving and so, so appealing.
Throughout the ensuing years I enjoyed his music but was mostly familiar with his bigger hits like “Let’s Dance”, “China Girl” and “Fame”.
It wasn’t until I finally reached university that I fell utterly in love with Bowie’s music.
His music helped me navigate an often difficult and bewildering time in my life. By the time I got to uni I’d spent four long years largely secluded from regular life, my activities restricted by a debilitating, serious medical condition. Venturing out into the world again was a strange experience for me. I’d spent so much time in my own little bubble that I no longer really knew what I was doing around other people. My shyness returned in full force and I had little idea of how to socialise or to simply be myself around others. I felt like a weirdo and had no idea how to fit in.
Listening to Bowie made me feel less alone. Once I discovered Hunky Dory and Ziggy Stardust and the Spiders From Mars, I was hooked. I couldn’t get enough of “Life on Mars”, “Kooks”, “Queen Bitch” and “Quicksand” or “Five Years”, “Suffragette City” and “Rock and Roll Suicide”. He sang about alienation, despair, self-expression and otherness. Here was music for anyone who ever felt like a misfit or an outsider, and he was such a magnetic presence: always reinventing himself, always the enigma.
I never tried to emulate him, because I couldn’t be cool if I tried and don’t have a single outlandish, glam or extravagant bone in my body. No, I was just a shy, awkward kid trying to figure out who I was and get some kind of handle on the big wide world, and Bowie helped. He helped me realise that fitting in isn’t important and that you can be anything and anyone you want to be.
In recent years I’ve been inspired by Station to Station, Heroes and Low, and I continue to marvel at the dizzying diversity and brilliance of his musical output. If I could possess just a tiny drop of his creative genius I’d be thrilled.
In the past week I’ve been moved by the collective grief and the sharing so many beautiful stories about how meaningful Bowie’s life and music has been to so many. There’s no one else like him, and perhaps never will be.
I’ve been listening to his music on repeat and still don’t fancy listening to anything else yet. It’s hard to believe that he’s gone, but we can all take comfort in this:
For that, I am eternally grateful.
So long, Starman.