I only saw David Bowie one time in person. Sadly, it wasn’t at one of his shows, I never saw him live. I was walking to my grandmother’s house in Greenwich Village, in New York, and walked passed him on the street. He was wearing blue jeans and a jacket, with a bag of groceries in each hand. We were the only two on the street that morning and my first impression was that he was just some dude. As we passed one another we made eye contact and it hit me, “Holy shit, that is David Bowie!” I didn’t say, “Hi,” or ask for an autograph. I just thought it was cool enough to have shared the same sidewalk with him for a few seconds and kept walking. That’s my Bowie story, it isn’t much, but it’s something.
Today, like everyone else, I’m listening to Bowie, sharing links to my favorite Bowie songs, and reading what everyone else has to say about Bowie. This is the first time that I have witnessed an outpouring of anything online and not cringed, immediately. I always thought David Bowie would be the last of his era to go. I don’t know why, he just had an air about him that made you think he might live forever.
So when was the first time you discovered David Bowie? Was it as a kid, watching, “Labyrinth?” What a weird movie. Maybe it was the day you heard, “Under Pressure,” for the first time, a song that featured another genius that died far too early. Maybe it was the first time you heard his piano begin, “Life On Mars?” Or maybe it was the first time you heard Major Tom’s distress calls in, “Space Oddity.” It’s weird to think how few are left from what might be the greatest era of music. But that’s how it goes. Nothing lasts forever.
Every winter like clockwork, I inevitably get into his, “Berlin Era.” Which began with him trying to get off cocaine by moving to Berlin and into the same apartment with Iggy Pop, teaming up with Brian Eno, and making three of his best albums: “Low,” “Heroes’” and, “Lodger.” Three Avant-garde albums that only geniuses like Bowie could make so accessible. This is one of the periods that makes you wish you had a time machine, so you could punch in, “1976, West Berlin,” and find yourself at the same bar as David Bowie, Iggy Pop, and Brian Eno.
Few people have inspired so many to make their strangeness their art, and make it beautiful. What ever your quirks, whatever people might consider your: oddities, idiosyncrasies, or eccentricities. Bowie taught us all not to shy from them, not to try and change to fit everyone else’s mold of what a person should be. He taught us to be whatever it was we wanted to be. He was Hermaphroditus, our androgynous God of Rock.
Sixty-nine is a lot of years to be alive but it still passes in a flash. Generation after generation have spent lonely nights and lively ones listening to his music, and many more to come, for as long as humans have ears, will do the same. He left us three lifetimes of music. A collection so eclectic from one era to the next, that you might find yourself wondering if it was all the same guy.
It was, he was, a legend, and his name was David Bowie. He’s gone now. Just before he died he released one last album, “BlackStar,” one last piece of stardust from the Starman himself. Rest In Peace, Ziggy Stardust.
Article by Timothy White. Follow him on Twitter @TipToTheHip.