Some incoherent thoughts on the death of David Bowie

I turned on the radio at about 7.15 this morning and the first words I heard were “I know some of you will want to know more about the unexpected death of …”. And my mind immediately started racing. Who? A politician was my first thought. But when the announcer said “… David Bowie”, I was utterly shocked. Knee-tremblingly shocked.

I didn’t meet David Bowie. I never saw him live. I didn’t connect with any of his music after Let’s Dance (until a couple of days ago). I didn’t really even think about him for most of the 1990s and early 2000s. Yet for me, like for so many others, he was a part of my life.

One of the first songs that ever registered with me was ‘Life On Mars’. I was about seven. Back then, I had no idea it was by David Bowie. Over time, I got to know his music pretty well. I was never a Bowie head, but I liked his stuff (at least up to Let’s Dance). I wasn’t alone. Everybody I knew liked Bowie about as much as I did, apart from the Bowie heads, who really, really liked him.

About 5-6 years ago my youngest son developed a liking for Hunky Dory. We’d play it in the car. His interest was piqued by the Mickey Mouse reference in ‘Life on Mars’. Three years ago, almost to the day, my oldest son announced out of nowhere that he was going to buy The Next Day. Given his usual taste, it was a real surprise. A pleasant one. I didn’t really care for the album, though.

On Friday I listened to Blackstar on YouTube. I was really impressed. My wife liked it too. On Saturday I bought the album on iTunes. He hasn’t done anything this good since Let’s Dance, I thought. It got me thinking about him a little. On Sunday morning I played his 1993 compilation The Singles Collection. My youngest son poked his head around the bedroom door when ‘Life On Mars’ started playing.

When I turned on radio this morning and heard about his death, I was truly shocked. I couldn’t quite think straight. When I dropped my son off at school I realised that I’d forgotten to pack his bag in the car and had to return with it. It’s a long journey and it was the first time I’d ever done anything like that.

David Bowie wasn’t part of my family. My feelings can’t compare to those who really knew him. But, like millions of other people, I am truly shocked by the news of his death. At the moment I can’t bear to play any of his material. In a couple of days, though, I’ll be able to. And he’ll be part of my life again.

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