Be Yourself

the man who fell to earth: a tribute to david bowie

The Man Who Fell to Earth, 1976

I’m sure everyone has reached Peak Bowie by now, but it took me some days to wrap myself around the idea that David Bowie is Dead. Like forever. Permanently. Being dead means he was a human, just like the rest of us. Not invincible. Not able to beat cancer or outlive us all and explode into a whole planet with giant rings the many colors of his Ziggy lightning bolt. He was so human, and yet death has proven him immortal just the same.

There have been so many beautiful, heartbreaking, intimate things written about David Bowie over the last several days. Not only by artists, actors, musicians (Brian Eno’s is my favorite,) celebrities, and friends who knew him, but by so many people across my network of friends. It seems as though everyone had a special David Bowie shaped hole in their hearts that he filled up with his music and film and art and fashion. Each of us found him in a different space, a different life phase, and we each have our own unique Bowie experience. The genuine love and loss people have expressed makes me happy to be part of a music-centric community that loves and respects this artist, this legend, this alien chameleon. And more importantly, it makes me happy to be human and alive. In an age where the daily media onslaught feels toxic and dangerous, seeing the world come together to honor and mourn the loss of one of the greatest artists in history feels like hope.

I have adored hearing your stories about how David Bowie changed your life, inspired you, and gave you the courage to let your inner freak out. No words I can muster will do the Starman justice, but this is mine.

My David Bowie genesis story is Labyrinth. I was just a kid when this film came out, but I was obsessed with it for most of my teen years, then later when I got into psychedelics in my 20s, and remain so even now. Labyrinth, like many of my favorite films from childhood, is very dark and oddly adult oriented. This man, Jareth, this Goblin King, he made me feel something exciting and nervy, even as a pre-pubescent tween figuring out my body and navigating being more grown up than all the other girls in school.

This explains so much about everything in my life. 

I didn’t know why I liked him, but I really, really liked him. I liked his androgynous face and body, and his delicious accent, and his dominating presence, and his leather gloves and riding crop, and his laid back freaky muppet party style. I liked him so much that I found myself getting angry at Sarah for not staying in the castle with him. The masquerade ball is probably still my all time dream fantasy of life. I still want to shake her and tell her to forget about that noisy, irritating baby. I would stop watching the end all together after a few years because WTF STAY WITH DAVID BOWIE. Can you see what he’s doing with those glass orbs? Look at his pants, because something is going on in them. Hello?!?!

I’m pretty sure lots of girls who grew up with Labyrinth feel the same way. I’m sure there are some who would shame me for having shared the inner workings of a young girl’s mind, especially related to sexuality, but come on. Let’s not pretend that we have zero idea what sex is until we’re 18. That would be pretty Republican of us, wouldn’t it? Also, I have zero shame in having my first of many androgynous/dominant/foreign accented crushes on David Bowie. First of many. I have a type, let’s be real.

80s David Bowie was my first foray into his musical genius, and I went sort of chronologically backward as I got older. I didn’t get super into his 70s music until my early 20s when I started taking creative writing my last semester of college. I was doing a lot of chemically enhanced spiritual exploration at the time and was obsessed with the idea of floating alone in space, and had gained some kind of concept of how minuscule the Earth is and how long infinity is, and that we essentially know absolutely nothing. I had recently stopped believing in god, so I found Space Oddity and Life on Mars to be right what I needed at the time. I read things like Slaughterhouse-Five and Player Piano and The Wind-Up Bird Chronicle. The collected arts of knowledge seemed to reveal themselves like a shipwreck full of treasure waiting for me to find it and pillage. David Bowie was my lighthouse.

I can’t even look at your adorable, mischievous face.

As I got older, he became important to me as a fashion and film icon. Another obsession of mine is Velvet Goldmine, and while not starring him directly, is quite obviously loosely based on the glam days of Iggy/Lou/David. Even now, I have a pair of silver glitter knee high boots in my closet that purposely were acquired as my “David Bowie Boots.” Every time I glam out for a party or night out, I try to channel a little DB in the 70s way. Always put more Bowie into your look. The man was an absolute star, and his brilliant, often subtle film work and fashion statements have been as much of a delight and influence for me as his music.

Probably my favorite and most special David Bowie connection began in 2008 when I met Capsula at SXSW. Not only are they amazing, beautiful humans, but they are outrageously talented musicians, and they LOVE David Bowie. I can say with fair certainty that without him, Capsula would not exist. That would be a loss I couldn’t bear, because they are made of magic. In fact, they recorded a version of Ziggy Stardust that will rock your stupid face off. Buy all their records!

And then, finally, we have Blackstar. What a heroic, expansive, crowning achievement of a record. Even in death, a gift. The truth is, in this record, we feel and see that our David Bowie was not young. He was not without pain or suffering. He was not kept in the womb of his glamorous, decadent youth. He got old. He got sick. And then he died. Like we all will. This hurts because if anyone seemed invincible it was David Bowie. Unbreakable. Unkillable.

We are so lucky to have been here at the same time as this space alien rockstar queen. The best we can do is to stay hungry and inspired and young at heart. Keep making and creating until we have no more breath. He won’t be the last of our heroes to leave us. Rest in peace, beautiful man.

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