I’m old enough to have lived through plenty of famous rock star deaths. Elvis Presley, John Lennon, George Harrison, Johnny Cash, Kurt Cobain. I was alive but not that cognizant of the famous 1960s/70s losses, Jones, Hendrix, Joplin, Morrison. I became aware of the magnitude of those losses a little later on.
However none of those artists, however starred and talented, approached David Bowie as a central figure in my own musical consciousness.
Bowie was with me from almost the absolute start of my musical awareness. Aladdin Sane was one of the first LPs I ever bought, followed by Ziggy Stardust and within short order, Hunky Dory, The Man Who Sold The World, Space Oddity, even that strange collection of mid-60s mutant musical songs, The World of David Bowie. From the very beginning, Bowie’s strangeness, his appearance, his concerns resonated with me. Even as I explored the music of the 1960s, Dylan, The Beatles, Bowie became and remained the lyrical touchstone and the lyrical expounder of the fears and hopes that occupied my teenage self. His growth and change mirrored my own, his music was the perfect companion to the movie of my life as it stumbled through uncertainty and anxiety into the depression that capped the end of my teenage years.
It was not, of course, the sole soundtrack. I embraced punk and new wave and much else besides, but Bowie hovered above them all, as an influence and as a guide. Like no one else, Bowie infiltrated my subconscious and remained there. Even as I aged and lost direct interest in his music after the commercial success of Let’s Dance, choosing to dip occasionally into later forays, Tin Machine, the 90s albums and the turn of century recapitulations. Like many, I was ready for and embraced the reinvigoration of The Next Day and now Blackstar.
There will be no more and I feel the loss keenly. Not overwhelming grief, that, naturally enough, is reserved for those closest to me, but a sense of emptiness. No one has emerged to replace him. There is no substitute. No one else has articulated the tumult that overtook me in the early part of my life as effectively. No one ever will – Bowie’s time was wedded to my own. His death is a marker of time passed and time that cannot be replaced, only remembered. A part of myself has been taken from me and filed away like journal pages in a dusty folder. I’m not sure how large a part that is – it’s too soon to see. But things have changed. It’s as it has to be but I don’t like it. I never will.