I don’t have an awful lot to say about the passing of David Bowie, one of my enduring childhood heroes. I was born in 1986, and some might say that’s too late to have truly idolised Bowie, but I politely disagree. I was an awkward, skinny, snaggle-toothed weirdo from South London who didn’t fit in and was hated for it. Bowie was all of those things too, but loved. People admired him precisely because he was so outside of the norm. He made me feel like it was okay to be me. He made me feel like maybe it was okay not to be what everyone thought I should be.
I first heard ‘Life on Mars’ at perhaps 7 or 8 years old and have never fallen in love with a song as hard or as fast as I did then. I would go so far as to say it’s my favourite song ever written (tied, I have to add, with Jimi Hendrix’ ‘Little Wing’.) That song was my gateway to Bowie. It was like discovering another world. Bowie’s music, for me, was the aural equivalent of an epic series of books. Every album tells a story, every song a narrative.
On the way home from work on Monday I put on my ipod and sat on the train listening to his music. I got to ‘Space Oddity’: ‘And I think my spaceship knows which way to go/Tell my wife I love her very much, she knows.’ I had to stop there.
Maybe people think it’s mawkish to mourn so intensely the death of a man most of us have never met, a man who existed largely in photographs and on video and, for the very lucky, on a stage. Maybe seeking personal validation in a rock star is a ridiculous, teenage way of coping with the world. But Bowie changed so much for so many. He was the soundtrack to so many lives, a constant presence, and the idea that someday he’d pass away just didn’t occur.
I’m going to end this marvellously pointless post on the song which has affected me the most. A lesser-known song, but lyrically powerful, and one that I think everyone ought to hear.
Thank you for everything, David.