David Bowie – The Shameless Gift He Left the World
David Bowie said, “I don’t know where I’m going from here, but I promise it won’t be boring.”
Yesterday we heard the news, David Bowie passed away from an 18 month long battle with cancer. A few of my childhood loved ones reached out to me, including my brother, who called me and asked, “You know, there’s been celebrities that I have liked who died in our lifetime, but why does this one seem to hurt?”….
When Elvis Presley died, there was an outpour of fans mourning on the streets of Graceland. Grown-ups fell to their knees and wept, remembering their hip shaking youth gone by. Radio stations flooded the airwaves with tribute marathons of Elvis records. Candlelight vigils were held across the night’s sky.
And tonight, although there is a hearty presence on social media, the very platform that his death was announced, it feels so silent in the world, as if so few know how large the loss. If you don’t know, I feel sorry for you. You should know.
In 1970, David Bowie introduced us to The Man Who Sold the World. This album and the song in particular was our entry way into David Bowie’s far out imagination. It was a world that felt like complete science fiction but only existed within the self. By introducing us to the alien creatures in his head, we could understand that the universe is actually entirely within ourselves. Everything you believe in your mind, is possible and it exists because you are the imaginator of your own universe.
Two years later, the extraordinary David Bowie gave us the complex story of Ziggy Stardust and The Spiders From Mars. The album followed alien rockstar, Ziggy Stardust who took human form to speak and relate to humans facing our final five years on earth. The song, Five Years opens the album, with the crushing news of our impending demise. In an interview with Beat Writer, William S. Burroughs, Bowie said of the Ziggy saga,
The time is five years to go before the end of the earth. It has been announced that the world will end because of lack of natural resources. Ziggy is in a position where all the kids have access to things that they thought they wanted. The older people have lost all touch with reality and the kids are left on their own to plunder anything. Ziggy was in a rock-and-roll band and the kids no longer want rock-and-roll. There's no electricity to play it. Ziggy's adviser tells him to collect news and sing it, 'cause there is no news. So Ziggy does this and there is terrible news.
I told my brother, the thing about David Bowie was that he was just cool…
In 1979, David Bowie wore a woman’s skirt suit on Saturday Night Live and performed Station to Station’s “TVC 15”.
In 1993, ex-wife, Angela Bowie wrote Backstage Passes: Life on the Wild Side with David Bowie, in which she revealed a time she caught him in bed with Mick Jagger, insinuating a tryst between the two. Yet with all his androgyny and music regarding sexual exploration, Bowie was never called “fag.” He was called a “chameleon.” David Bowie could effortlessly transform between man in lipstick and drag to a man in a sharp suit with perfectly coifed hair, and you just had to accept it. The concept of “zero fucks given” was owned by Bowie.
In 1983, David Bowie shed his alien and transgender looks to offer us that blond gentleman with his bowtie undone, like a rebel on our MTV. And he sang to us about the struggles between God and man, known as Modern Love.
I don’t know much about him as far as what he believed, spiritually or if he was afraid to die or if he decided not to tell the world of his illness because he wanted this time to be his own.
But I remember that in 1991, the world lost legendary vocalist and Queen frontman, Freddy Mercury to AIDS. It was still a time when rock n roll was greatly appreciated in the world. An amazing tribute followed that featured the remaining members of Queen performing their songs with guest singers including George Michael, Robert Plant, and David Bowie. Onstage, Bowie got on bended knee and recited the Lord’s Prayer.
In 1995, he transformed again, this time to a man in black who teaches us The Hearts Filthy Lesson, delving back into the sadness of our futuristic demise. The lyrics tying in the five years warning of Ziggy Stardust, “I’m already five years older, I’m already in my grave.”
On his final birthday, January 8th 2016, David Bowie released the album, Blackstar. Some call it a hint and a parting gift to us…his way of telling us the end for him was near.
I woke up shocked and saddened this morning, like somehow this was the loss of my hope and a farewell to my youth. Then I read what Mick Jagger tweeted out, “He was wonderfully shameless in his work…”
As I look back on his life and pour through the music that impacted me, I think all those times that David Bowie was trying to tell us that we are all dying, he was also reminding me to cherish even the darkest parts of our lives. Through his music, he said to me not to worry if I’m different or weird or scared, but to embrace it because we’re only here for a short time. He meant for us to never forget that we are going to die and to live our lives on our terms. At least, that’s what I’m going to take with me tonight. Goodnight, David Bowie. Salute.
You left me with more than one damn song to make me break down and cry.