There’s stuff to do. There’s always stuff to do. I’m supposed to be finalising my application for the Word factory apprenticeship scheme and to be fair I’ve done a bit, but my mind is elsewhere. Early this morning I’d just got out of the shower and was about to do some press ups when my wife came in and told me that David Bowie had died. I looked at her as if she was mad. ‘I’ve just heard it on the radio,’ she said, ‘they just announced it on 6 Music.’ I grabbed my phone and sat on the bed. Sure enough, the BBC News confirmed it, David Bowie had died at the age of 69 from cancer. All my enthusiasm for the day ahead sagged away. I went through the motions of my morning exercises with one word bouncing around, ‘fuck.’
These last few weeks have seen some musical greats depart. First there was Lemmy, the infamous front man and bass player from Motorhead a man known for his partying and ‘fuck you attitude.’ Many were surprised that he was still alive. Then there was the death of John Bradbury, the drummer and backbone of The Specials, a band that created the soundtrack to my teens and now…now this.
I got into Bowie late. Lots of people loved him, but they weren’t my people. They were old or dyed their hair and wore ridiculous jackets with padded shoulders. ‘Let’s Dance’ may have catapulted him into world-wide stardom but it wasn’t for me. ‘Ashes to Ashes’ had a bleak melancholy that was loved by Goths and New Romantics alike, but once again they weren’t my people. When I was at Art College a friend of mine went to see Tin Machine (Bowie’s short-lived rock project) and I couldn’t understand why – why would you go and see the guy who sang ‘China Girl?’ Then in the mid 90’s I listened to Hunky Dory and nothing was ever the same again.
I wouldn’t say I was an obsessive Bowie fan; I haven’t listened to all of his work, yet, but I know what I like. What got me from the off was his lyrical playfulness, the way the words were just as important as the music. He could weave history, heartache and literature all within a song that you couldn’t get out of your head and he never stood still. Many musicians will find their niche and stick with it ploughing the same furrow over and over. Bowie was always moving, always growing and never afraid to take risks. In 2009, Vanity Fair published their Proust Questionaire that included answers from David Bowie. It’s well worth reading through the whole thing -which is here– but the question that stayed with me was this:
What do you regard as the lowest depth of misery?
Living in fear.
David Bowie showed us what it was like not to live in fear, to be daring, to take risks and to have fun and he did it all with an innate sense of style.
I haven’t received my copy of his latest album, Blackstar, yet, but I know it’ll be good. It’ll be something I take time to listen to and digest, something that I cherish, something beautiful made by a man who changed music and art for so many and who wrote some of the best songs ever.
There was a post today from Gaz Coombes, musician and former front man of Supergrass, that I found incredibly helpful. A friend had texted it to him, when he heard of Bowie’s death and he posted it on:
If you’re sad, just remember the world is 4.543 billion years old and you somehow managed to exist at the same time as David Bowie.
Something to lighten the mood…