From time to time, I type out what I’ve written in my daily journal. This is from today, January 11, 2016.
RIP David Bowie
I woke up early again, too early. 4:30-ish. (Once upon a time, that’s when I went to bed. Whatever happened?) I looked on Facebook on my iPad (with a coffee in my sleepless bed) and read that David Bowie had passed away yesterday. I think I saw it first from my daughter Hanna who lives in Europe and posted something before anyone in North America would have seen it.
I got up and put on a You Tube compilation of his songs. So many songs that have always been a part of my life, somehow. Ashes to Ashes is likely my favourite. But then there’s Space Oddity (the original appearance of Major Tom). Maybe I like it more. Changes. Heroes. Wild is the Wind. So many great songs, no point trying to enumerate them all.
I feel very sad today, which I find a little surprising. I mean, people die every day. I didn’t feel any particular strong bond to David Bowie. Or at least I didn’t know I had. Obviously he meant more to me than I had realized.
I mentioned this to one of the young women who works at Caffe Beano and she reminded me to look at the bright side, that he had an amazing life, he was old, he had cancer, etc. etc. I know she’s right. Of course she is, and it was good of her to try to cheer me up. But when you get to a certain age yourself, though, when someone who has always been there, a part of your life, suddenly dies (or even not so suddenly) you are reminded of your own mortality, and just how quickly our lives pass by. And that’s enough to make a person sad.
Looking back, I remember buying the album Scary Monsters when I moved to Toronto from Regina in the fall of 1980 to go to York University. I was twenty-four. I was suddenly exposed to the music (and art, generally) that my fellow students from across Canada were into. (I remember getting into the Talking Heads at the same time and buying their album, Remain in Light. 1980 was a good year in music.)
My new friend Janine definitely turned me on to Bowie. Of course, I knew his music before then, but she ramped it up significantly. It was very cool to identify with Bowie, and even dress in the new wave fashion – skinny Edwin jeans, black leather jacket, white running shoes and a hair cut that now could only be described as a mullet.
I damn near wore that Scary Monsters album out, I played it so many times. (Btw, we’re talking vinyl here. I didn’t get a CD player until the late ‘80s.) I was open to pop music again after a foray into the classical world that had lasted for about ten years while I seriously studied the piano.
Whoever Major Tom is, and whether that song is about drugs or just the general alienation and otherness that we all feel from time to time – whatever it means, exactly, Space Oddity has always been helpful, giving words to our experience and a balm to our alienation and in this way it could be said to be an anthem for a generation.
(There are others from around the same time – notably Stairway to Heaven, Hey Jude, Born to Run, and some earlier ones like The Sounds of Silence, Heart of Gold and Big Yellow Taxi. To name but a few . . . )
I seem to have a memory from back in the day (and I say that I seem to because I’m not 100% certain that it really happened). I was driving along an empty stretch of highway in Saskatchewan on a warm summer’s night. The sun roof was open, the great canopy of stars was vibrating above in the inky blackness. I had smoked a fatty and was listening to Space Oddity full blast – floating in a most peculiar away . . . sitting in a tin can . . . far above the world . . .
It comes back to me now as a moment of perfect contentment, one of those rare moments in a lifetime. It’s a nice memory, even if it never happened.
The world feels a little emptier today, the silence a little louder.
Thanks for reading.
And then there’s this . . . .