David Bowie 1947-2016 - Outrageously Inspirational Always

Breaking news of the death of one of your heroes is always emotional but with David Bowie, whose music is a thread that intertwines my entire life, it was a truly universal sense of loss. He seems to have inspired everyone I know at some stage or another. My Facebook and Twitter are endless streams of his music videos, his lyrics and his iconic transformations that spanned six decades.

His songs are the soundtrack to some of my earliest memories, my childhood. I can so clearly hear ‘China Girl’ as I sit in the back of my Dad’s Toyota Celica in the late eighties. I still smile everytime I hear the line ‘just you shut your mouth’, I used to think it was so rude.

I have the clearest recollection of listening to ‘Rebel Rebel’ as my Dad drove me home from Beaver Scouts and played it so loud I thought my head would burst. The Lyrics to ‘Starman’, ‘Suffragette City’, ‘Ziggy Stardust’, ‘Jean Genie’, ‘Life on Mars’, ‘Queen Bitch’ and many others seem to live within me, like my family’s names or Birthdays, I just know them.

The first thing I did when I heard the news was text my Dad, the one whose sewn Bowie throughout my life. He is a huge Bowie fan, he was his childhood icon and hero. He will be very sad today too, probably unaware of how much of an impact Bowie’s music had on my childhood. How much I remember and how fondly. Next time we meet we will undoubtedly talk Bowie. I want to know what he was like live in the early days, when and where he went to see him, his favourite album. I can’t not listen to Bowie back to back today, tomorrow, all month..I could easily be back in the Celica or kneeling up against my parents HiFi with ‘Ashes to Ashes’ on repeat.

Growing up, every time I saw him he looked different, even more amazing and interesting. He could change his persona, escape to become someone else, innovate, reinvent himself seemingly so naturally. I was in awe. I loved the idea of this almost magical man who could change in an instant, like a chameleon.

I watched ‘Labyrinth’ for the first time with a babysitter when I must have been 4 or 5 and it terrified me. I hid it but the kidnapping, the grasping hands, the Fireys, even Ludo all all set me on edge and did for many years afterwards. Yet, I would still watch it time and time again and  what I remember most vividly, was it being the first time I had ever felt excited by feeling scared. The Goblin King didn’t scare me, in fact, in reflection it was probably more of a crush than being afraid of him. It will be interesting to watch with my young son to gauge how well it has dated. I haven't seen it in many years. Is it still as terrifying? Will he laugh at the Goblin King? Bowie was incredible in it, seemingly as awkward as he was brilliant but it only adds to the film.

Discovering the lesser played Bowie songs for the first time felt incredible, like I had been let in on a secret. I had only really played my favourites for many years and it wasn’t until I went to University when I bought ‘Scary Monsters...and Super Creeps’ did I realise there was so much more. Over the next five years I had consumed everything, day in day out, seeming to find a new favourite song each day. ‘Golden Years’, ‘Fashion’, ‘Moonage Daydream’, ‘Kooks’, ‘Shake It’, ‘The Man Who Sold the World’ ‘Young Americans’, ‘Oh You Pretty Things’.  I blasted out his albums for all waking hours of the day for months on end. It was the perfect music to wake up to, work to and wind down to.

Whilst he didn’t play at the opening, for me, he was the soundtrack to the London 2012 Olympics with ‘Heroes’, making a nation prouder than ever before. The escapism and national pride the Olympics offered was great. Everybody seemed that little bit happier and it was all along to the lyrics ‘we can beat them, just for one day’. Our troubles and problems, not just our opponents. Since then his most recent work is as intriguing and anticipated as always. I eagerly awaited ‘The Stars (Are Out Tonight)’ video as it was directed by the utterly incredible Floria Sigismondi and it did not disappoint. His latest album Blackstar will be a strange listen now so close to his passing but it feels knowing. It’s dark and melancholic and will be like Marmite to most people but it is a powerful farewell.

Despite my earlier comment about seemingly knowing some of Bowie’s lyrics off by heart, I am not normally one to remember lyrics. Just ask anyone in my family. On Sunday, a day before the sad news broke, as we made a den out of a duvet and pillows, my young son and I had ‘Diamond Dogs’ on in the background. I caught the opening lyrics of ‘We are the Dead’ for the first time and then dismissed and returned to destroying and rebuilding our den. “Something kind of hit me today, I looked at you and wondered if you saw things my way”. No matter how many times I have heard that song I had never picked up on the opening lines. I am still discovering old Bowie now, well over two decades after first hearing them.

I am someone whose memories are nearly always closely connected to songs, I have done this from my very early childhood through to today and I am sure I always will. Bowie’s work is such an integral part of my memory, I cannot imagine a world without Bowie’s music and he leaves behind him a legacy of outrageously and incomparable imagination and creativity.

January 11th 2016 is a sad day. The world that little bit less colourful and imaginative. Dream wildly Bowie, you will be ever sorely missed.

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