I woke up this morning feeling like I’d been run over. I couldn’t figure it out because I went to bed at a reasonable time and slept very well – which is unlike me. Usually I wake up several times, but not last night. I hurried to get dressed, because I was also late…and rushed to get the youngest ready for the day and out the door. At some point before leaving, I looked at my phone and felt that feeling of dread come over me when I saw my news feed still commanded by post after post in tribute to David Bowie.
That familiar sinking feeling returned as I saw so many of my friends clearly in pain and mourning. My heart nearly broke as I read posts from dear friends as well as from people such as Martin Gore (Depeche Mode), Michael Stipe (REM) on Facebook, and even Conan O’Brien, covered on the Huffington Post. Dealing with the loss of a legendary artist like Bowie is tough enough – he really WAS The Beatles of the 80s (as my favorite New Wave experts Lori Majewski and Jonathan Bernstein wrote in their Yahoo! Music article today), but seeing people you love, admire and care about grieve is a different thing entirely.
David Bowie is everywhere today. He’s all over the iTunes music charts, thanks to an-ever familiar surge in “after death” sales that nearly always occurs – and this is nothing to be sad about. I’ve seen a few lament over the fact that it’s taken death for people to buy his art. I say, as an arts appraiser – that this is the market. I wouldn’t look at it as being sad. It’s a silver lining. David’s music will live on. His music, his image, his ability to reinvent himself over and over again and never rest on his laurels, will continue to inspire for many generations to come. That, my friends, is a gift. Be sad that a man died. Be sad that there is no real cure for cancer, or that his wife and children will be grieving long after you and I get on with our lives, but don’t be sad that David Bowie’s music is being discovered by people who may not have paid attention previously – myself included. Last night my husband and I went through our vinyl collection and pulled out some Bowie albums we haven’t listened to in years. Yesterday, I bought Blackstar. Sure, I’d planned to buy it anyway – but hearing he’d died reminded me to get it. So I did. Today, I’m listening to a greatest hits playlist on Spotify, with songs on it that I’d nearly forgotten about. (As an aside, I’m finding that I listened to FAR more Bowie over the years than I ever realized as I go through his collection….) None of that is bad, in fact, I applaud it.
Still others scoff, saying that today’s generation of music makers won’t be listening to Bowie – they listen to the radio, filled with monstrosity like rap and auto-tuned “fast food” varieties of music that continue to be churned from labels. Artists like that won’t be influenced by true artists like Bowie, and kids who listen to those types of artists obviously won’t be influenced either. I disagree completely. I might not be able to hear it, and I might not be able to see it – but that doesn’t mean the influence doesn’t exist. Just yesterday I’d read a quote from Kanye West of all people, saying that he owes Bowie for much of his musical inspiration. Kanye is about as far out of my musical realm as it gets, to be fair, but I can’t help but applaud the example. After all, who is to say that some 8-year little girl old didn’t, for example, hear “Lazarus” yesterday when her mom was writing a blog and say “Wow Mom, I love his voice.” and then try to copy the sound herself? Or maybe she saw the video for “Blackstar” and then asked to see “Space Oddity” and marveled over the way he looked and sounded? We just don’t know where the influence will come from, or how it might affect future artists. As cynical as I can be about music, the industry and even art in general at times, I refuse to believe Bowie’s influence won’t continue in some fashion. I think we get ourselves into trouble when we start convincing ourselves that inspiration doesn’t flow from generation to generation, and that nothing from our own era has come through because it was simply just “too good”, and music has gone straight downhill from there. That’s one slippery slope.
There’s no arguing the fact that music will never be the same. When you lose a family member, there’s no replacing them in the same exact way. For us, the children of the 80’s, the music lovers, the fans…Bowie was family, whether he was extended family or the head of our musical “household”. Even so, music will go on. Life goes on. The permanence remains.
That’s when it hits me: I must be grieving. That feeling of exhaustion and pain is one I’m familiar with, although I didn’t honestly expect to feel that way from something like this. You see, David Bowie was never a favorite of mine in the way that he was for some of you – and I really do feel for each of you in a way I really can’t put into words. I am so sorry. Grief has a horribly ironically funny way of sneaking up when you least expect.
A friend suggested I listen to his music, certain that I will find something within to touch me – and I have. His hand, whether by physical touch or inspiration, was involved in nearly everything I love in life. The grief, sorrow and loss of my friends, my heroes, and the people I love is also my own.