I know I'm not a kid anymore, but last week's loss of David Bowie hit me harder than I thought it ever would. I have already lost some of the musicians I grew up with, like Freddie Mercury and Michael Jackson, but David Bowie spoke to me on so many levels it was a more personal loss.
I first fell in love with Bowie at a very young age when I saw the album cover of my aunt's copy of Ziggy Stardust and the Spiders from Mars. I'd never seen anyone who looked like that. He was beautiful and strange and something about his voice captivated me right away. I am pretty sure I saw the original airing of Bing Crosby's Christmas Special and falling in love with Bing and Bowie's duet of The Little Drummer Boy (yes, I am dating myself). And there was a weird time when my Mom's Barbara Streisand album had a cover of her singing Is There Life on Mars. It just goes to show the power of the songwriter that even her foray into Bowie's territory was kind of cool in a very, very odd way.
I wasn't really into that kind of music yet when I fell in love with the alien on the album cover, so years passed before I rediscovered David Bowie and A Space Oddity in my teens. "The Man Who Fell to Earth" was a bizarre sci-fi movie he starred in and I had the paperback novel with the stills from the film in the middle. Thanks to MTV, Ashes to Ashes was a visual trip into my old friend's newer music. Suddenly, everybody knew who he was. Fashion, China Girl, Let's Dance, Modern Love, Blue Jean- his renaissance was a thing of beauty that only continued to grow. "Merry Christmas, Mr. Lawrence" was a beautiful film in which he played a British prisoner of war. "The Hunger" saw him portray an aging vampire. There were other films, but these were my favorites. And then came "Labyrinth".
I sneaked out of work early to see "Labyrinth" at the theater for a second and third time without anybody knowing. Ye gods, the man was beautiful as the Goblin King.
If you haven't seen Bowie's final masterpiece, the video for Lazarus, seek it out. It made me cry. The dying man in the bed, the artist/writer scribbling desperately to outrace mortality and continue to create...he was truly saying goodbye, although none of us knew this until after the fact, when it hit home with all too painful truth.
He was an artist who wed music to science fiction, a consummate performer who reinvented himself over and over. I'm thankful for the body of work he leaves behind.