As of this writing, a little less than an hour ago, I learned that David Bowie has passed away. I’ve been sitting in my bed, almost literally frozen, trying to process it all. As I’ve gotten older, I’ve seen many of my favorite artists pass away. As we get older, they get older with us and they get an opportunity to mark moments in our lives. Whether we’re aware of it or not, they become more meaningful. We come to appreciate them almost as if they were friends. A year or so ago, I got in touch with a friend I hadn’t really talked to in years. She was surprised to learn that I still loved a lot of the music I listened to from when we met as teenagers. But I don’t understand, how could you not? If you love something, I guess you can stop loving it. But the good things often stick around, or you get a shot at discovering them again. Bowie’s music has always been a very good thing for me.
I can’t specify when I first became a fan of Bowie. There’s a chance it may have been before I was thirteen, as my father is a massive music fan. Particularly of any rock music from the sixties and seventies. I’m sure that in long car rides or road trips we shared together, I must have listened to The Rise and Fall of Ziggy Stardust and the Spiders from Mars at least once. When I was thirteen, I had already started to watch Late Night with Conan O’ Brien and once, they had an episode that was all claymation. David Bowie was the musical guest, singing “Afraid.” When you listen to something and you love it, it’s hard to articulate why. There’s something about the voice, the lyrics, the melody that just rings right in your head. Everything about “Afraid” just felt right. Plus, in that interview he came across as such a gentleman. A very funny and warm man. Johnny Knoxville was one of the guests and Bowie told him how much he loved Jackass. A year later, I caught Lost Highway on television. A cousin of mine and I stayed up late watching it. There are those haunting opening titles, with Bowie’s “I’m Deranged” playing. I realized I was becoming a fan. Since then, I owe a lot to David Bowie. I have a lot of reasons to say “Thank You” to him.
Thank You, David Bowie for getting me closer to my dad when I was a teenager. I was the cliché of a teenager in that I wasn’t happy with my parents for any good reason in particular. I was angry, depressed and talking to me would be like talking to a wall. Car rides with my parents were filled with awkward silences. One day, my father played The Rise and Fall of Ziggy Stardust and the Spiders from Mars and he mentioned that it was by David Bowie. That made me pay attention to it and pay attention to what he was saying. Again, he’d had that album for years up until that point, so I’m sure it wasn’t the first time I’d heard it. But it was the first time I’d actually listened to it. And it gave us something to talk about, with him even joking that I should try to make a film out of it someday, knowing that it’s my dream to make movies.
Thank You, David Bowie for making great movies even greater with your music. The Life Aquatic with Steve Zissou just wouldn’t be The Life Aquatic without “Life On Mars?” and “Queen Bitch” on it, or those countless covers by Seu Jorge throughout the film. Lost Highway wouldn’t be Lost Highway without “I’m Deranged” playing over the opening titles. “Modern Love” was so perfect for the ending of Frances Ha. Before I Disappear is burnt into my memory thanks to that haunting scene set to “Five Years.” And I’ll never, ever forget the jolt that “Young Americans” gave me right after the ending of Dogville. Even after all the years I’ve known it and listened to it, “Space Oddity” caught me by surprise in The Secret Life of Walter Mitty. The helicopter scene just gave it a whole new meaning. Or underscoring “Cat People” to one of the coolest “Getting ready” scenes ever in Inglorious Basterds. A shout-out to this article for including a few right here.
Thank You, David Bowie for those times that you collaborated with other singers, making great songs even better. The Arcade Fire’s “Reflektor” came to me in the perfect time. It resonated because I thought it reflected (no pun intended) some things I was going through at the time. Bowie’s part in it is so minimal, but it was the cherry on top of a great song. His voice was just so haunting and strong. He knew how to knock any song out of the park. Even if it was just one tiny verse.
Thank you, David Bowie for the great life lessons that came to me at the perfect time. The first time I remember actually listening to “Under Pressure” was on a road trip with my cousin. He lent me his Best of Queen album that had “Under Pressure” in it, and of course, this was another time I had actually heard the song before, but not listened to it. And everything about it just felt right, but what really stuck with me were Bowie’s parts of the song. I got the sense that I was being taught an important life lesson. Freddie Mercury asks: “Why can’t we give ourselves one more chance? Why can’t we give love?” Bowie retorts “’Cause love’s such an old-fashioned word, and love dares you to care for the people on the edge of the night, and love dares you to change our way of caring about ourselves. This is our last chance. This is our last dance. This is ourselves under pressure.”
Thank you David Bowie, for those times you got me closer to friends; When I was in University, my roommates and I decided to watch Labyrinth. We laughed, eating it up like crazy. It’s a very cool movie, dated in some aspects maybe but one that’s stood the test of time. Getting a little drunk as we were watching it. My favorite part was watching one of my roommates go crazy for David Bowie playing The Goblin King. Any time he’d be on screen, she’d fawn for him. We all laughed about it, and it just made the film better for us. It’s the great thing about movies, about art. Just how it gets people together like that, and give us moments that exist outside the film. Then, there was the time a friend of mine asked me to create an acting reel for her. I told her to propose a song and she went for “Heroes.” I already knew we saw each other eye to eye when it came to music…or most music, but it got us talking a bit about Bowie and lead into a great conversation that got us closer. And later on, during a party with some classmates from my Master’s, I got to sing Under Pressure with a few of them. I was very happy to get all the Bowie parts and they were happy to see me loosen up that way with them, which admittedly, I hadn’t done before.
Thank you, David Bowie for the times you’ve inspired me. Putting in a very throwaway reference to “Life On Mars?” on a short story I wrote for college was the best tribute I could think of. Especially on a story that was partly inspired by that song. Lately, I’ve been writing a lot of Sci-Fi adventures, and in all of them, I’ve turned to listen to his music for inspiration and to set myself in the right mood. Just like Walter Mitty, I find myself jumping into my own tiny helicopters and flying away when I listen to his music.
We don’t get to share time with every artist we love. I feel very lucky to have lived in the same time as David Bowie, and to have gotten the opportunity to listen to his music. And I’m sure I’m not the only one who’s had the same experiences with his music like I have. David, everything sounded better with you. Thanks and rest in peace.