Why David Bowie matters to me:
The first concert I ever went to was David Bowie at Radio City Music Hall. I was young and impressionable and loved, loved, loved Bowie. I took the train in from Connecticut with my big sister and watched people dressed up as Ziggy Stardust and Aladdin Sane wander around the line, and that show was the start of my love affair with live rock music. In art class the next day I did an Andy Warhol-esque silkscreen tribute to the concert and made a t-shirt, and had people offer to buy it. I wouldn’t do it (I had non-piracy ethics even back then, I guess).
The second time I saw Bowie was a number of years later at Madison Square Garden. I was up in the nosebleed seats and when I held my hand all the way out in front of me, Bowie on stage was the size of the top of my pinky finger. It didn’t matter; I still loved loved loved Bowie and his concert. Both shows were great and infectious and while Bowie wasn’t the most engaging person with the audience (he didn’t speak to the audience, and that Radio City Music Hall concert ended with the sudden announcement that Mr. Bowie had left the building so we should all go home), he was still a consummate showman.
Beyond his on-stage personalities, David Bowie made it okay for people to be themselves. To dress the way they wanted, to love the people they wanted, to be different, to be accepted for being different. He made it okay to explore the things I wanted to explore and to feel good about wanting to explore things that weren’t mainstream. Bowie was extreme, but at the same time he was just this guy doing all the things he wanted to do, not taking crap from anyone.
I was thinking yesterday as I listened to a lot of his music that he seemed like he didn’t give a fuck what people thought about him. That’s all supposition. I never met him and have no idea whether or not he gave that fuck, but it’s been my experience in the years since that most people who say (or act like) they don’t give a fuck in fact give an extreme amount of fucks. They just don’t let other people know how many fucks they give. Because of Bowie and people like him, I learned how to be myself. I learned to accept myself for who I am, and I learned to like who I’ve become. Thank you, David Bowie.
Normally, I don’t get very emotional about celebrity deaths. A friend always used to give me the update on all the celebrity deaths and seemed genuinely broken up about each one of them. I told her one time that they didn’t really affect me. They weren’t people who had any bearing on my life. Well, this celebrity had a huge bearing on my life. I cried more about David Bowie than I’ve cried over anything or anyone since my dad died last year.
Some people are supposed to go on forever. Bowie is one of those. He wasn’t afraid to be exactly who he was, or to reinvent himself and let the world know he’d done it. I’m going to miss that, and him, and even though I know he’s still out there somewhere (science fact: energy doesn’t disappear, it just takes on a new form) it won’t be the same.