Recently, during the time that David Bowie’s career retrospective was featured at the MCA, a friend and I had a conversation about Bowie’s place in history. He argued that most people born after a certain time would remember Bowie only for Labyrinth and would likely never look further into his career. I thought that Bowie’s legacy couldn’t be boiled down to any one piece of his oeuvre and that blatantly ignoring his other works was foolish. It was wordy debate that got particularly heated, mostly because my friend didn’t completely understand what David Bowie meant and will continue to mean to me. As I lunged forward with my arguments, I felt passionate.
Years before that, a girl gave me an early vinyl pressing of The Rise and Fall of Ziggy Stardust and the Spiders from Mars. It was one of a few albums she had gotten, both old and new, that were exactly my taste. Bowie’s album stood out because I didn’t remember asking her for it, she just somehow knew. I hugged and thanked her, trying to tell her how much it meant to me that someone bought me music that I actually liked. She smiled not completely understanding and despite what ever ended up happening between us, in that moment I felt happy.
Sometime during the first relationship of my adulthood, my girlfriend and I sat in one of our mutual friend’s apartment listening to music and talking. Our friend was out of town for the week and had allowed us to stay at her place if we wanted. We did and took advantage of their sound system, listening to albums in their entirety, alternating picks between us. We must have listened to four or five albums before I put on Hunky Dory. She recognized “Changes” and stopped talking. She wanted to listen to the whole thing with out interruption, just letting the music wash over us. During “Kooks”, she laid on the couch and nestled her head between my body and my arm. As we continued listening, I felt content.
At the age of 15, I sat in a half full movie theater with my mother watching The Life Aquatic with Steve Zissou. Sitting a few rows in front of us were some older kids that seemed far cooler than they could have possibly been. About ten minutes into the film, Seu Jorge began strumming his guitar and singing in Portuguese. A smile stretched across my face. I immediately recognized it as “Ziggy Stardust”. Those kids in front of us quietly but audibly uttered Bowie’s name and for the first time in my sickly adolescence, I felt cool.
I stood in one of the local shopping malls, back when there was an f.y.e. stationed in the corridor leading to the food court, completely perplexed. I wanted to buy a CD for my aging CD player and to satisfy the early beginnings of my musical obsessions. In front of me were three jewel cases: Diamond Dogs, “Heroes”, and The Man Who Sold The World. I barely knew anything about David Bowie, I just knew he was good and he looked cool. My mother allowed me to get all three. I was ten, no, eleven years old and I felt elated.
This morning my phone vibrated, waking me from my usual restlessness. It was a social media app, the preview showing a photo of David Bowie as Aladdin Sane. I thought about ignoring it, but it was David Bowie. I opened the post and read the news. One of my biggest heroes had passed away and I began to cry. I don’t really know what else to say. I thought about all these moments where David Bowie made feel…something. There are countless more than the ones I shared but for some reason these kept popping up. I don’t know if they’re the most important, but they’re the ones I remember most. They’re the ones I decided to write out this morning when I felt sad.
Rest well, Bowie.