It’s 11:51 pm right now. I first heard the news about half an hour ago. David Bowie has died after an 18 month battle with cancer at 69. I think time stopped.
Twenty six years ago about this exact time my 14 year old self was hiding under blankets in her room in Pittsburgh, PA listening to a “20 Years of David Bowie” special on the radio. I was hiding under the blankets with my little radio pressed to my ear because my mother had told me I was too young to listen to David Bowie (and because it was a school night and I was supposed to have been asleep many hours beforehand). But ever since I had been introduced to his music only a few days before I was hooked. There was no way I was missing that radio special.
There was something mesmerizing about the man that had nothing to do with his eyes of two different colors. There was an aura about him that was simply magnetic, an air of mystery interlaced with science fiction and fantasy.
If we go all the way back to 1969 and the birth of the Ziggy Stardust phenomenon we are talking about a man playing an alien. (Or was he an alien playing a man?) In fact, singing about aliens and alienation was a constant theme in his music. “Life on Mars”, “Loving the Alien”, “Major Tom”, “Ashes to Ashes”, the list goes on. “Moonage Daydream” was part of the soundtrack to Guardians of the Galaxy and “Starman” was used most recently in the Golden Globe winning movie The Martian (it won that Golden Globe tonight.)
Beyond his music (which you can never say lightly) he was a brilliant and honest actor who made his Broadway debut in “The Elephant Man” to critical acclaim.
Before that though he brought to life the alien Thomas Jerome Newton in 1976’s “The Man Who Fell to Earth”. Which is still one of the most disturbing ‘aliens among us’ movies ever, I think. It recently inspired a musical, “Lazarus”, that Bowie wrote the music to.
There was John Blaylock, the tragic vampire, in “The Hunger”, and his role as co-host for the tv series “The Hunger” (Terence Stamp was the other host of the horror anthology) between 1997 and 2000.
And while it is considered a children’s movie, he brought a sense of humanity and tragedy to Jareth, the Goblin King.
For me the 11th of January is going to be spent listening to his songs, maybe watching a movie or two, and letting myself be inspired by a man who lived life to the fullest and never apologized for who he was, what he did, or how he did it.
He is a man who has inspired many imitators and has no successors.