…but if they have to it’s hard to imagine doing it better than David Bowie
(Yes, I’m yet another devastated lifelong fan who stumbled out of bed this morning to discover that the Dame had quietly passed on. If you’ve read enough of those, either because he wassn’t that important to you or because you can bear no more, just pass it by.)
I opened Facebook and at the top of my feed was a post by my brother Eamon, consisting of the cover of Bowie’s classic album Low and my brother’s comment: “I am undone.”
That was all it took, I knew, though I still moaned Oh no, oh no no, and tried to deny for several minutes more, tried to hope it was an error or a hoax or some bloody damned thing that wasn’t what it was.
It’s an impossible fiction to maintain for any length of time with any person of Bowie’s fame and reach, but in his case I didn’t really have to confirm with the authoritative fact checking sites and reliable news sources really – because David had already said goodbye in inimitable style, in his last album Blackstar, released on his 69th birthday just a few short days ago. I’d been listening to it and watching the videos he’d made, and along with I don’t know how many others the knowledge slammed back into my brain and rearranged the meaning of it.
He knew he was dying, and being the consummate artist he was he chose to go out as Robert Louis Stevenson put it:
Under the wide and starry sky,
Dig the grave and let me lie.
Glad did I live and gladly die,
And I lay me down with a will!
He was ever changing, ever renewing himself, as close as this planet has seen to an actual Galifreyan TIme Lord, and his final gift to us is as pure and beautiful and weird and heartbreaking as anything he’d done.
David Bowie has been in my life for what seems all of my life. When my sister left home and I missed her, she was the girl with the mousy hair, and never mind that her hair is red as flames. When my heart was broken properly for the first time, it actually was a girl with long blonde hair and eyes of blue who brought me the sorrow. When I ached with loneliness and felt like the oddest kid in the world, some kind of alien freak, he was the starman who made it okay to be that way. I was never able to hear the expression “getting your ashes hauled” without smiling at the memory of losing my virginity to Ashes to Ashes, funk to funky. When I felt suicidal, his was the voice that said “You’re not alone! Give me your hand!” When I had my son I sang to him about how his parents were kooks and to stay in our lover’s story. Growing old far from home he made me feel the worth of being Thursday’s Child. On and on; his music and style have informed my life in myriad ways, and like my brother I am undone at his loss.
I have been watching and listening to Bowie all day today – I called in sick to work – and I have cried enough tears to save the whole family of The Man Who Fell To Earth. I’m crying again now.
It may seem odd that I’ve only properly quoted the lines of an older poet of a bygone age, but there are simply too many of his to choose from, and others who loved him know them well. I will quote just one, not from his farewell (do seek out Lazarus, though!) but the early and underrated Conversation Piece:
And my essays lying scattered on the floor
Fulfill their needs just by being there
And my hands shake, my head hurts,
my voice sticks inside my throat
I’m invisible and dumb,
And no-one will recall me
And I can’t see the water
for the tears in my eyes.
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