It’s not hard to have my own David Bowie listening party as I have nearly everything he recorded on my iPod. My Bowie poster is on the wall behind the stereo. If I wanted to, I could pop in one of my Bowie DVDs and watch a marathon of music videos or footage of a concert from A Reality Tour. But even if I couldn’t access any physical media with which I could experience the man and his work, he has been in my thoughts and feelings all throughout the day. I held back tears at work, more successfully at some times better than others. I don’t think any of my co-workers noticed, though I freely admitted to welling up once I learned the news.
Why is it that I so profoundly feel the loss of a person that I never met? With all of the celebrity deaths in recent memory, why did this one affect me so much? I guess you don’t have to know somebody personally in order for them to touch you in a meaningful way. You might also know how much they touched you until you realize that they’re gone. You still have the work that they produced that affected you, but they’re death means something more than the fact that you won’t get any more material to buy from them. The loss of that one person means a loss of a great creative spark among us all—a loss that ripples throughout humanity.
A few days ago I posted a list of famous people that have affected my life in some way. David Bowie did not make that list. He came to mind, but I intentionally cut the list off at five people, with no real discerning process of omission other than “I thought of them first.” I made a point that my list didn’t include everybody. Yet at the same time I also didn’t feel bad about the omission. I regarded myself as a big fan of David Bowie, certainly. But was that enough to include him?
Of course it was. Why else would I be a fan of David Bowie if he didn’t affect me somehow? The truth is that I’m just not sure how I can exactly describe in what way he helped shape my life. But perhaps that’s appropriate; Bowie is hard to explain, sometimes is work is undecipherable—and it’s all part of the allure. I remember years ago reading an appropriate review of his work along the lines of “alien but cool.” (I apologize for not remembering the quote verbatim, or the source, but I got the gist, anyway.)
Whether he was The Man Who Fell to Earth or the Earthling Loving the Alien, Ziggy Stardust, the Thin White Duke or any of the other monikers associated with his various personas over the years, David Bowie was also an innovator. He was a pop icon. He was one of the most beloved and influential people in the world. And he will be sorely missed.