Life on Mars

The world woke up this morning to news of David Bowie’s passing, and like the rest of the world, I found myself greatly affected. But it didn’t hit me right away. It sunk in slowly throughout the day. Each time I came across a news article, a tribute, a tagline, a mention, a passing comment, a “Did you hear about…?”, each time that happened, which was every few minutes, it sunk in deeper. It sunk in so deep by the end of the day that the weight of those very little things felt palpable. It was like someone very dear to me had died. And perhaps someone very dear to me had. Though it feels weird to say that about someone I’d never even met.

I’m not one to mourn the passing of people I don’t know personally and never a celebrity, but David Bowie had always been more than an iconic voice and face to me. And I will forever regret the three times I’d passed up to see him live. Time and money were things I couldn’t spare whenever he came around to my neck of the woods. There was always a deadline to meet, a presentation to practice, a paper to write, bills to pay, and the list went on. When I finally came around to actually having the time and money to spare, his health began failing. I regret it all. But thanks to youtube and the magic of streaming, most of his concerts are available whenever. Though I hear it’s not the same, and I know it’s not.

When I first got into his music, I dove right in. It started in college which was quite late imo but the right time in my life for a genre- and gender-bending artist, an artist who was never boring because he paved his own way. He didn’t do what has been done before and he never did the same thing twice. It wasn’t so much the lyrics that hit me, although that came later. It was all about the sounds at the beginning and the ingenious ways in which he combined them. I fell right into them and spent years combing through each album and remix, basically everything he had ever written, and there was never a dull moment. When you find that something that speaks to you, you just want to listen to it all the time. I never tired of it and I’m still enamored with it.

‘Cause love’s such an old fashioned word
and love dares you to care for
the people on the edge of the night
And love dares you to change our way of
caring about ourselves
This is our last dance
This is our last dance
This is ourselves
under pressure

For the time being, the world feels significantly emptier without David Bowie.


One of my favorite concerts with all my favorite hits and Gail Ann Dorsey accompanying on Under Pressure: Live at Rockaplast

This one’s pretty awesome too: Live by Request

* * * * *

The first time I listened, really listened, to one of his songs was at this little get-together on the school’s front lawn that started out small but grew into a huge party by the end of the night. It was thrown by a couple of friends who wanted to celebrate the end of our first year of college. We’d survived and it was a big deal, so naturally everyone wanted to kick back and have fun. Finals week was the brutal end to what had been a couple of months of ups and downs, more downs than ups. We couldn’t believe we had made it to the end of the school year with decent grades. So it was time to celebrate.

The song playing when I arrived at the lawn was Diamond Dogs, very fitting for the mood and it set the energy for the rest of the night. I had heard this song about a dozen times before, but it didn’t sink in until that night.

As they pulled you out of the oxygen tent
You asked for the latest party
With your silicone hump and your ten inch stump
Dressed like a priest she was
Todd Browning beast you was

Not much of this song makes sense, but its images stick with you for a long time.

Before I really got into his music, I’d been hearing it for most of my life without realizing. It wasn’t until I went through his albums chronologically that I recognized songs such as Life on Mars, Starman, Space Oddity, Diamond Dogs, Heroes, The Man Who Sold the World, and many others from the radio. And the moment I was turned on to his music, music wasn’t ever the same again. All the other bands and singers I had liked before, from my youth and adolescence, all paled in comparison. They all lacked…heart and depth…because they all had that fake commercially produced look and feel about them, as though they were made on an assembly line in a mass-manufacturing studio. David Bowie had none of that. His looks and sounds felt fresh and sincere and real, even decades after they were recorded. There was something unique about his having control over his art that I loved. Here was someone who cared about his work, and it showed.

And for me, it was here was someone who spoke my language, or close enough to it, and it sounded amazing. His words and sounds filled an empty space in my life. Music hadn’t been that important to me before then. It was either just background noise or something to while away free time. It didn’t mean anything to me until David Bowie came along. He changed it all. And he opened the door to a whole world of artists just like him, and his recommendations and endorsements never disappointed. He had great taste in music other than his own. The music I listen to now all stem from people he steered me toward. It all traces back to him somehow.

We are nothing, and nothing will help us
Maybe we’re lying,
Then you better not stay
But we could be safer,
Just for one day

* * * * *

I woke up this morning and had to remind myself that David Bowie has died.

It doesn’t feel real. Even though it’s sunk in, it doesn’t feel real.

Having to constantly reminding myself makes it feel even less real.

Death has never been a possibility I ever considered…for him, to be completely honest, because it never occurred to me that he’s mortal–or of this world. He never seemed like one of us.

I always pictured him making music for the rest of my life.

I always pictured him outliving me.

Said you’d took a big trip
They said you moved away
Happened oh so quietly, they say
Should’ve took a picture
Something I could keep
Buy a little frame, something cheap
for you
Everyone says hi


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