He took no title of Sir and declined a CBE but David Bowie was close to royalty with his contribution to the arts over the past 47 years of his career.
I’m not going to pretend I’m the number one David Bowie fan, because apart from a stint of watching the movie Labyrinth everyday for about 3 months solid when I was 8, I didn’t actually get into and appreciate his music until I was way late into my teens. I remember once, when I was 20 years old, I had to get the 2A bus from the centre of Lancaster to University campus and the bus took a particular route through the Hala estate, notoriously steep with hills and riddled with slow old people taking forever to flash their bus passes to the driver. I was irritated because I was already late for a seminar I was not allowed to be late for, and it had just started Lancaster raining (this is much fiercer than any other UK rain) and I didn’t have an umbrella. And then Starman came on my Spotify, and as I hummed the words, I felt much better. It wasn’t an epiphany, or a moment of transformation. I just listened to the lyrics and then replayed it over and over again until I got to campus.
With an ex of mine, we used to constantly listen to The Best of Bowie on his dad’s old record player and dance around the little wooden hut we lived in like the hipster 21 year olds we thought we’d be forever, and I remember loving every minute of it. Fast forward 4 years, I listen to Bowie in the mornings whilst I get ready; or as a ‘panic song’ for when my mind goes blank at house party’s and most of the time whilst I’m walking somewhere so I can strut and pretend that everyone around me are just extras in my ultra cool and alternative music video.
My point is, Bowie for me sits up there on my internal music shelf, sometimes not thought of for a while, sometimes overplayed in just one day. I place him up there with Coldplay, The Beatles, Elvis, The Beautiful South, NWA and that one song from Visage I like. Songs that I can just pluck down and remind me of a time in my life, or a feeling I had when listening to it before.
David Bowie represented all ages, all races, all genders and all sexuality. His songs filter through some of the best known films and productions of the past 20 years, Buddha of Suburbia, Moulin Rouge and Shrek among others. His Aladdin Sane imagery features on the t shirts of those who bought online from eBay without the foggiest of who he is, and his lyrics adorn posters in student flats from 1970 onward.
So as I stood last night with hundreds of others at the vigil held in his birthplace of Brixton, we raised a glass for the master of reinvention, projected his images onto walls and even witnessed the defacing (debatable) of a statue adorned with the Aladdin Sane eye emblem. There were big Bowie fans there, there were people there just for the crowds but either way, there was this buzz. This buzz of everyone wanting to just celebrate this great, great life.
We should be thankful to David Bowie, not just because he was incredibly talented, but because he taught everyone the most valuable life lesson of all; that you should be whoever you want to be, you can change, you can stay the same, or be a hero, forever and ever.