Monday, January 11, 2016

Alas, Aladdin Sane: David Bowie, 1947-2016

“...[W]e lost so many people in one person, and a close family friend, at that.” 

Nothing like lying in bed in the pre-dawn dark, and the first thing you hear is your wife crying out that David Bowie is dead. Ah, well....

I liked Bowie’s stuff all right growing up. It was a little more gay than I was comfortable with as a teenager in the 1970s, but I Iiked what I heard on the radio. I never got far past the Ziggy Stardust album (an essential staple of the musical diet of all the cool kids I knew in college from 1978-1984) until, of all things, I was married with children. 

Then Bowie became something like a family friend. When we bought our first minivan with a CD player in it upon returning from Japan in 1997, we played the Hunky Dory disc until we’d memorized the words to nearly every song. Hearing then-four-year-old Emily singing along with “Oh You Pretty Things” as we drove around Beaufort, SC, that first time is the memory that makes me stop to rub my eyes thinking about it.

Eventually I got his entire catalog through Let’s Dance, plus his 1995 collaboration with Brian Eno, Outside. James and Emily got their introduction to classical music via Bowie’s narration of Peter and the Wolf. Labyrinth was a favorite movie here for a while. The photo I’ve attached is from Halloween 2008, when then 14-year-old Emily made herself up a Aladdin Sane Just last summer my son and I were learning all the parts from “Space Oddity” on guitar, because, well, we were sitting around playing guitar, and that’s a really good song. Good ol’ Uncle David. He had a million of ‘em.

I was surprised at my own reaction last year when Leonard Nimoy died, and we all knew that was coming. Nimoy’s iconic Mr. Spock was, of course, a close childhood friend. I thought that was the last time I’d ever be affected by a celebrity death. But Ziggy Stardust, Aladdin Sane, the Thin White Duke, the Man Who Fell to Earth, the Goblin King...we lost so many people in one person, and a close family friend, at that. Right out of the blue, too. Good on ya, Mr. Jones, for keeping your cancer a secret for so long. It made for a theatrical surprise finish worthy of rock’s most theatrical performer.

We owe this guy for Iggy Pop and Mott the Hoople alone. The sun has yet to pale the eastern horizon here in Colorado, and I’m done with this cursed day. Time to queue up some music, and try to remind myself that this is the natural order of things. Although I can’t get past Bukowski’s line about the giants of literature who once walked the earth: “Where are the replacements?” A rhetorical question we all know the answer to.

Requiescat in Pace, Mr. Bowie. As Tennyson noted in his diary the day he got the news Lord Byron died, “The world was darkened for me somehow.” No kidding, Al. Ya think?