Wednesday, 20 January 2016

And the stars look very different today: facing our own mortality

TRIGGER WARNING: This post deals with issues surrounding death.

It's taken over a week to write this post. Over a week to process the fact that the greatest creative influence in my life, David Bowie, has died.

At first reading, you might think it's crazy that someone I never met could have evoked such an emotional response I shed tears on the morning I learned of his death. That only now am I able to write this post. You might ask, why?

There is of course the obvious answer. He's been a part of my life for 33 years. I first discovered Bowie as an 11-year old girl, when I was banned from watching the video for China Girl on Top of the Pops because there was nudity at the end. I hid around the corner and watched it anyway, mesmerizedFast forward three or four years and I discovered my older brother's cassette copy of Heroes. I'd never heard anything like it. It was so different. Unique. Yet it felt like it had been written for me. 

Over the next few years I discovered and endlessly played everything I could get my hands on, from cassettes to LPs to CDs, his early work cementing my fascination with space and science fiction. My best friend at the time loved him equally, and we saw him in concert for the first time in either '89 or '90. I can't remember the exact year, but seeing Bowie live was everything I'd hoped it would be.

I never found Bowie attractive in a sexual way. There was no girl mad about boy crush. It was the music and the artistry I loved first and foremost, though I will admit he did look hot around the time of Let's Dance. 

My love for Bowie never diminished over the years, and I was fortunate enough to attend his Meltdown concert the day before my thirtieth birthday, in June 2002. What a performance. The Low and Heathen albums played in their entirety. A few of his greatest hits. Bowie not wanting to end the concert and the organisers telling him he had to stop. I'll never forget that night.

What Bowie taught me through his music and art was that it was okay to be different. To be unique. To stand out. To believe in yourself and your passions, whatever they may be. He pushed the boundaries of social convention, which gave others the confidence to do the same. I admired the fact he'd beaten his addictions and turned his life around, unlike many of his contemporaries. So, my love for Bowie's music and artistry is the obvious answer for my emotional response. But the truth is so much more. 

When I heard the news I was devastated. Not for myself, but for his family. At what they'd gone through, from first diagnosis to those final moments. It brought back every painful moment of my own personal experiences of losing a father-in-law and father to cancer. 

I felt all of the pain Bowie's family had and will experience. I knew that everything in him would have fought until the end to stay. The need to continue to be there for his family, especially his young daughter. I'm sure he would have given anything to stay. I understand that pain.

But there is still another reason for the grief I feel, and that's a selfish one. It's to do with my own mortality. When we are in our teens, twenties, and sometimes even our thirties, we believe we'll live forever. Unless we're unfortunate enough to experience some devastating losses at a young age, time stretches out endlessly before us. It's only when we start to lose those closest to us that we start to truly understand that our lives will not go on forever. That we will die. 

David Bowie never fitted into the 'closet to' category in my life. In truth, he was never truly David Bowie. He was David Jones. A husband, a father and a friend. A man made of flesh and blood like any other. As mortal as the rest of us. But by dying, he reminded me of my own fragile hold on life. I'm convinced this is the answer to why so many of his fans say they still cannot accept he has died. They've been forced to face their own mortality.

At the moment, my mind does not want to believe what is undeniably true - David Bowie was never going to live forever and neither will I. But what a life he led. What a legacy he leaves. 

RIP, David Bowie. 


  1. He did leave a legacy. I'm sure you've enjoyed all the science fiction and fantasy films he was in.
    There is a point in all of our lives where we realize we're not immortal. It's a somber moment. Bowie will live on in what he created and we can only hope we'll do the same.

  2. I thank you for your thoughts... I will miss the spaceman... the stars do look different, sadness.

  3. Yes his death is a huge loss to the music industry and a personal loss to all his fans. I first got hooked around 1968 / 70, although I had heard his David Jones work, it did not appeal. Under the name of David Bowie, his music kept appearing in the charts and I bought his albums and every time it was different. You could always expect something new from him and I found that a big part of his appeal. I was well into SF by that time so that was another hook to his music for me.
    In terms of personal mortality, a part of aging seems to be seeing people you have known for decades go one by one and you start to realise you yourself are not immune. Now we will never know for sure what ‘The Bewlay Brothers’ was all about.

  4. Hi Ellie - he was a huge influence to many, especially his family - but he seems to have achieved his end, in the way he wanted to ... with dignity, with creativity, with love ... and I'm certain the family were at the core of his last hurrah. Thank goodness we have so much footage to look back on to listen to ... I didn't get to the V&A exhibition - thought about it .. but didn't get there.

    I feel for you - but this is a great post ... all the best Hilary

  5. A poignant and heartfelt post...Bowie would be proud:)

  6. Losing someone you admire can be rough. I remember when Philip Seymour Hoffman died, I teared up. I write plays as well as novels and I'd always harbored a secret hope that he would work on a play of mine one day.

  7. A marvelous tribute post. I remember going to see him during the Glass Spider tour. It was unlike any other concert I'd seen.

  8. Bowie was the consummate artist. Always changing and stretching into new territory. He will be missed.

  9. That was a hard hit for us too. Totally lost it watching his last music video. Glad he was such an inspiration to you. :)


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