Monday, January 11, 2016

David Bowie

There was a poster of David Bowie on her wall. I don't remember who "her" was. She was a babysitter or someone's older sister. But I remember staring at a man with red hair and full makeup on a poster on her wall, and being told it was David Bowie. I probably wasn't six-years-old. I remember thinking, "I'm too young to understand this." Really, that's what I remember thinking - this is beyond me right now. Probably around the same time, I remember crying over "Major Tom." The song would come on the radio and I would tear up, thinking of poor, poor Major Tom, dying all alone in space like that, leaving behind his beloved wife.

But the David Bowie song I remember really jarring me in the same way it jars me now is "Fame." I remember getting it. That song came out when I was 9. And I got it. I remember picturing my own little music video every time I heard the song: a party, with perfectly-coiffed people, none smiling, looking at each other and trying to out-cool each other as they stood silently, glances at others, judging...

No matter what the era in my life, if felt like there was a song by Bowie on the charts. Always. Whether the radio station was rock, oldies or pop/top 10, they always found a way to play a Bowie song. He was so larger than life, I didn't think of him as human - he was BOWIE. I never said I was a fan of David Bowie - you don't have to say such things. Are you alive? Are you breathing? Then of course you're a fan of David Bowie. I've heard the musical and artistic merits debated of many a musician among friends or DJs or whatever - but I never, ever remember hearing such a debate regarding David Bowie.

After my first summer working at the Williamstown Theatre Festival, in 1988, I lived, briefly, in Queens - in August and most of September. And before my second summer working at the WTF, in 1990, I lived briefly on the upper West side - in March, April and May. I don't remember if it was 1988 or 1990, but I went to the Metropolitan Museum of Art one day, the only time I've been there. I was mesmerised by just being in New York City, and it just felt so right to be at the museum that day, like it was exactly where I needed to be. I felt so good that day. I walked over to look at a small painting in a big hall, just outside of some special exhibit. There was a couple already looking at it - a short, thin white man and a thin, very stylish black woman. I stood next to them, looking at the painting, and heard his voice saying, "look at the colors..." It was David Bowie. I was inches from him. I stopped breathing, a thousand thoughts going through my mind: it's David Bowie, he's going to think I'm scary fan, I don't want him to think that, I don't want security called on me, be cool, don't acknowledge it, you're standing next to Bowie, be cool... I slowing drifted to another painting by the same artist and Bowie and his companion moved into the special exhibit. I don't think it was Iman, since, supposedly, they didn't meet until 1990, but I could be wrong.

That was my Bowie moment. I cherish it. My dear friend Louise actually met him, formally - talked to him and all that. I don't think I could do that. I don't think I could have been formally introduced to David Bowie. I think I would have imploded into nothingness. The only thing I could think of saying to him, other than, "Oh my god, do you know who you are?!?" would be, "Thank you. For everything."

I've cried all morning at the news that David Bowie has died. I'm comforted at just one thought: somewhere, always, there will be someone that will discover David Bowie for the first time. Maybe she'll be going through her grandmother's album collection. Maybe he'll hear something on the radio. Maybe a friend will say, "You gotta hear this..." But he, or she, will be jarred, be inspired, be transported, maybe even comforted. And he, or she, will make friends with people who say, "Oh, you're into Bowie too?!" As long as there are humans on Earth, that will happen.


  1. He was so far ahead of his time,the rest of the world still hasn't caught up..."I watch the ripples change their size
    But never leave the stream
    Of warm impermanence and
    So the days float through my eyes
    But still the days seem the same
    And these children that you spit on
    As they try to change their worlds
    Are immune to your consultations
    They're quite aware of what they're going through"

  2. I wouldn't even know where to begin with a quote... every song is packed with words i'm feeling, that I've felt... mensch.... thanks so much for commenting.

  3. The Mayor of the Sunset Strip, Rodney Bigenheimer, really did a yeoman's job in helping Bowie break on US radio in the very early 70's.

    I caught a lot of blowback in my jr. high days because I liked music that was quote/unquote, different. Bowie was not the mainstream artist in any sense and I realized it was quite alright not to have to conform to a norm.

    Great story, Jayne. Thank you for sharing.

    -Jerry in Salem