This news hit me hard. I was preparing to walk out the door and commute to work in icy temps. It gets cold on the bike. Lisa gasped from her still warm place in the bed and I came in and she showed me the headlines from her phone.
I am a fan. I’ve been a fan as long as I can remember. My daughters, though they don’t know it yet are fans too. They have grown up listening to Bowie tunes and watching Labyrinth and singing along to “Dance Magic” and watching Lord Royal Highness. I grew up listening to Bowie. Let’s be honest we all have and likely everyone will.
I had kind of a fucked up childhood. I spent much of my childhood feeling alone, isolated unloved and unwanted. My parents had divorced before I could remember. I came to the U.S. unable to speak English. I was the only Mexican in my small Minnesota town, a brown stain in all that white (there was a Black family too). When my sisters were born my mother focused her attention on them, trying to do better than she did with me.
When I got older my feeling of alienation magnified. Not only was I a Mexican in white rural Minnesota but I didn’t speak Spanish anymore so when I did try to communicate with my Father and his side of the family….I couldn’t. I was pretty smart and I liked DnD and other fantasy, I liked to draw and do art and to write and did not want to hunt or go icefishing or snowmobiling. Not my thing. Kind of a thing up there in the frozen north.
You may pick him up on Channel Two…
I don’t remember the first time I heard Bowie. I’d wager that it was at Dave’s house after school. Dave was the Youth Group Leader for one of the local churches. Not my church, my family didn’t attend by then but some friends at school went so I did too. I think my mother was happy to know I had a safe place to go when she was off at work or school. Dave is responsible for a lot of my musical upbringing, exposing me to Bowie and Prine, Sweet and Arlo Guthrie and Larry Norman and everything in-between. How many seventh graders do you know that sought out and bought Songs of Protest? (Still one of my favorite albums btw).
Wherever I heard it first, it stuck with me and became a part of my life from then on. I listened in Middle School and High School. I sang along in college and on a Coast Guard Cutter in the middle of the ocean. When Lisa and I were planning our wedding we planned on walking down the aisle to a friend singing Heroes. David Bowie’s music can easily be found in any part of my life. Why?
The thing that sticks out to me about Bowie’s music was the otherworldiness. The loneliness, the alien feelings he was able to evoke. It sounded like he was expressing my own emotions right back to me when I was not able to speak them myself. Hell, I probably didn’t really understand my own feelings at the time but I got what he was saying. I was a lonely and scared and confused kid trying to figure out where I belonged. Along comes this alien voice from God-knows-where and he doesn’t really tell me anything about me, just that he’s weird and alone and foreign too and he knows what it’s like.
I was a little less alone after that, and that is something.
I cried when Johnny Cash died. I cried when David Bowie died. I think I can honestly say I will not cry over another artist. No other artist touched my life the way these two did and continue to do on a daily basis.