|“Make the best of every moment. We’re not evolving. We’re not going anywhere.” – David Bowie|
Last night I went to bed earlier than usual and woke up around 2:30 am and checked my phone, discovering quite unexpectedly, that David Bowie had passed away.
I was shocked and saddened. Over the last two years, the icon released three albums and launched a Broadway show. He had been fighting cancer in secret for the last eighteen months. His output likely being his own way of giving his fans one last treat of his creative energies.
The first Bowie album I owned was Let’s Dance, which I bought when I was twelve years old. I also remember buying the blue vinyl 45 of “Blue Jean” from his next album, Tonight, a year later. Even at that age I remember that Bowie stood apart from other artists. He wore suits. He had different color eyes and he often felt like he belonged in a different era.
I had yet to discover Ziggy Stardust.
At some point I came across this police photo of the then, “Thin White Duke”. I’m not even sure where I saw it; this stuff was more unusual to come across before the internet.
This picture made me believe that if they ever made a really interesting Batman movie, Bowie would have to play The Joker.
He left behind some inspired films and a catalog of music that will outlive us all.
And in my dreams he always gets the last laugh.
After the jump, read other memories of David Bowie by Forces of Geek’s staff.
My favorite Bowie album has always been Scary Monsters (and Super Creeps). Its a great name for a record, at least, it is to me, who is shallow enough to admit that I am easily drawn to anything that has the word Monster in it. But if I’m being completely honest what really made me love this album was the song “Up the Hill Backwards”, which, during my early teen years, was the anthem of my soul.
I know, it sounds so emo but trust me on this; a teen soul needs an anthem and with lyrics like:
I was powerless against the melodic driving beat of the Starman all raging yet comforting in some weird symbiotic way that made me feel heard against the meloncholy-bland saltine-flavored wind that howled across the tiny suburban landscape that I called home.
Bowie was…is…will always be my connection into myself…or, as the lyrics go:
Of course everyone’s sad about David Bowie’s passing. I will be, but it hasn’t sunk in yet. Bowie’s death doesn’t seem like it can be real. He never felt mortal to me. He felt like a piece of the fabric of reality. Always here, never gone, always a light somewhere in the vast sky that was to burn for a hundred million years.
Of course he was human, and every human has its time here, and when that time is up, it’s up. But Bowie’s time won’t ever be up. The work he did and the contributions he made to us have molded and shaped music beyond the capacity of mere songwriting. He changed everything. His body of work will be celebrated eternally, but more, his impact will continue to effect future artists in ways they don’t even realize.
So I’ll be sad about Bowie’s passing, probably very shortly. But for now, I’m just in shock. It’s a little more than my brain is ready to handle just yet.
I love that Bowie turned down Bond, the villain’s role in A View to a Kill that eventually went to Christopher Walken, because he felt the screenplay was weak. Which obviously it was. But he said yes to a voice role in SpongeBob SquarePants. He wasn’t a snob, and I loved that about him. If a role struck him as clever, funny, dramatic, scary or in any other way interesting, he’d do it. Though I didn’t always understand his choices, I respected him as an occasional character actor.
Nobody was better than Bowie at playing a ‘Bowie type’.
A few years ago, I lost my uncle. After hearing the news, I was walking home and suddenly stopped in my tracks by a bird I had never seen before. It landed at my feet and paused for what felt like minutes, I stared down at it in awe, it was a beautiful reddish-brown bird with blue markings. During this unusual occurrence, Space Oddity was playing through my earphones and as the line “Planet Earth is blue, and there’s nothing I can do” finished, the Jay (as I eventually learnt) flew away.
According to friends who are experts on things like birds (as a Londoner, like Bowie…my knowledge on ornithology is mostly pigeons!), Jays usually steer clear of humans and aren’t particularly common where I live. I thought it might be a comforting message from my uncle, maybe it was if you believe in that sort of thing? Maybe it wasn’t. I can never know with absolute certainty. But one thing I took away from the experience is that every time I hear that song or see a jay bird, I am reminded of my uncle and it always makes me smile. Weeks later, before his funeral, I took a solitary trip to London to the V&A museum and saw the David Bowie exhibition. I spent all day there and left with a souvenir pair of Aladdin Sane lightning bolt earrings that I now wear on most days.
It’s hard to mourn the loss of someone you always assumed would be there and realising that the Thin White Duke was mortal and was taken from this Earth by cancer seemed somewhat unbelievable. After sobbing for much of this morning, something struck me, another little jay bird moment. I couldn’t cry anymore, all I could do was smile because it suddenly occurred to me that even so close to death and secretly suffering from cancer, the man who fell to Earth wrote and released an album!
What a remarkable human being, he is an absolute inspiration and thinking back on his life makes me want to strive harder, be better, do more and to create.
Planet Earth is blue and will be without you, Major Tom.
David Bowie left us at the symbolically sexual age of 69 only days after releasing his new album. I shouldn’t be as surprised as I am by his passing, because Bowie and surprise went hand in hand. Bowie carries each and every reinvention of his persona with him to the grave. He didn’t just stop being Ziggy Stardust to become Aladdin Sane, and everything thereafter. He became a constant evolution of these characters, layer by layer. His creations were always surprising and always furthering the mystery behind the real David Robert Jones. Bowie’s marriage of sound + vision was original and exciting, ambiguous and evolving, ahead of and derivative of its time all at once. The stars look very different today.
David Bowie has always been one of my all-time favorite everything and anything. He reminded us that we could be heroes, not to fear changes, to dance-magic-dance, and not to give in under pressure. (“Under Pressure” may be my favorite song ever.) I am so deeply sad that he is gone but am so glad I got to see him in concert — My best friend flew to LA from New York to see him with me at The Shrine on A Reality Tour in 2004. It is one of my favorite memories. That was a helluva show. He had a helluva life. I will miss you, Goblin King.
Clay N Ferno
|“All I have is my love of love And love is not loving” — Soul Love, David Bowie 1971|
Coffee shops, bars and cubicles today are to be filled with an air of sadness but also the notes, songs and incredible lyrics of David Bowie. I grew up in he sweet spot of growing up in a world where girls where more than aware of Labyrinth around the same time us boys got a lightning bolt in the pants for the Blue Jean video.
Bowie stayed with me through all of the Ch-Ch-Ch-Changes and Greatest Hits as I graduated from The College of Classic Rock Knowledge. Real world Art College brought me into the superhero world of Ziggy Stardust just as my first live-in girlfriend enlightened me to ‘the early years’ era of Hunky Dory and David Bowie. Now, when I need to listen to some rock and roll and remember a world before Cyrus and Skrillix and Drake, Bowie is what dominates the earbuds and I dare say the record player.
Bowie is the stuff of legend, the stuff of love, the stuff of sex, the stuff of women and men and being both at the same time. Rest in peace, Goblin King, Ziggy the guitar superhero, avatar of my adolescence. I’m sure you faced your Golden Years and cancer with as much strength as you gave us all.
I was born in the age of Diamond Dogs, but early memories were formed during Modern Love. Images of white suits and slick melodies made up my formative years as the Thin White Duke took hold of my early childhood. I remember sitting in front of MTV for hours on end waiting for the next video by the “guy with scary eyes.”
I knew who David Bowie was before many other kids my age; before Labyrinth and his impressive manhood made an impression on many a Gen-Xer. I recognized him from my father’s copy of Aladdin Sane. He was my imaginary friend from the world of album covers. When I was five or six, I would line up the different albums on the floor of the living room so David could join in the fun with Jenny Dog and Kelly Kitty as we all enjoyed invisible cake together. It took five years after those tea parties before I actually played the record it contained. I was having too much fun with the colorful sleeves and the funny man on the cover.
As I grew older, I loved “Modern Love” and “Magic Dance,” and with each year, I loved more. I grew to adore “Hunky Dory” and “The Man Who Sold the World.” In college, “Diamond Dogs” and “Young Americans” were the anthems of my early twenties while “Scary Monsters (and Super Creeps)” found a place in my heart at age 27. It seems that for every Bowie song, I have a memory, a place in my life where that tune seems to fit, a part of me where the melody ceases a small ache.
Thank you, Mr. Bowie. For all you have given me.
I raise a glass of imaginary tea in your honor. May the spiders from Mars lead your chariot to heaven.
I was about six years old, growing up in South Philly when David Bowie’s Young Americans record was released in the spring of 1975. My sister, eleven years my senior, had long been a fan of Bowie and Philly International recordings so she was beyond thrilled to hear that David was in town recording a soul record. I remember the day she brought the record home and her and her best friend Debbie listened to the record over and over again while I sat in the corner after school that day coloring. It was amazing to her that Bowie could make a record that captured the soul sound that she and her friends had grown up loving.
Years later I found out that the almost too perfect baking vocals were arranged by the great Luther Vandross, one of the many talents that Bowie helped bring to the forefront during his amazing career. To think of the sheer audacity that Bowie had to walk into the heart of Philadelphia to record a Philly soul record is a testament to his unabashed desire to experiment, the fact that he actually pulled it off speaks to his unassailable talent. From that moment on Bowie was like a gateway drug for new musical genres because if he had the sense to discover and record our brand of soul, he most likely was ahead of the curve on the most innovative thing coming next.
The David Live record that was recorded in Philadelphia (at the Tower Theater) and released a year earlier in 1974, combined with the Young Americans LP, the fact that David would normally start his tour in my hometown, and his Phillyesque outspoken righteousness made him an honorary Philadelphian in my eyes.
I finally got to see David Bowie in the flesh when I was fifteen during his Serious Moonlight Tour which his the Spectrum in Philly. For his encore that night he sang “Modern Love” and it was that footage from that show in 1983 that I attended which became the video for that song. Whenever the video gets played now it thrills me in ways that I cannot express here.
I love you David Bowie and thank you so very much for stopping by my town and letting the world know what was beautiful soul was living there.
I am no stranger to death. I’ve lost more people in my life than I care to tally, from the closest of family members to the best of friends. So why is it I, like everyone else, can be so struck with a sense of loss from the death of David Bowie, someone I’d never met or knew personally?
That is the power of art. That is the power of song and of a man who was not only truly and original but had the strength of soul to keep pushing, to keep creating to keep giving. It was that gift he shared, that has affected us all so much.
And many of us, feeling a sense of loss, not knowing how to say goodbye to someone we’d never met… well, it’s okay. He was such a visionary, such a talent, he turned his own mortality into art. Creating an album and music video to say goodbye to us. I’ve never been so moved. It’s okay we didn’t get to say goodbye to him, he knew we’d never get the chance and so with Lazarus and Blackstar, he said goodbye to each and every one of us.
Everyone’s memory of David will be different, as he was a many of many facets, a chameleon of fluid style, sexuality and genre. He seems to have touched so many lives, as evident from the massive social media outcry at the news of his passing. This is because he spoke to so many generations, evolving and re-spawning alongside them; speaking to them so poignantly and candidly, in the most colourful and sublimely surreal means possible. It seems strange to think that David Bowie is gone, when he seemed like a man who would simply always exist. He had existed after all since before I was born, and so I don’t know a world without him and it is awfully hard to imagine one. For a man with such a long career, it’s bizarre and cruel that he had such a short life in the end. The brightest, most powerful stars burn out all the faster “and the stars look very different today.”
David Bowie entered my life when I was a young adult, which *I know* is quite late for most of his fans and supporters. In the fall of 2011, Generoso, my future husband at the time, took me to the Kendall Cinema in Cambridge, MA to see Nicolas Roeg’s The Man Who Fell to Earth. At that point, I knew little about Bowie, but that would soon change.
As an alien being in the film, Bowie possessed this palpable grace and sensuality that made him distinctive and unlike anyone I, as a child of the 1990s, had ever seen. Many speak of his androgyny and how pioneering he always was with his look, but what really attracted me to David Bowie was his confidence and composure in his stature, and this magnificent poise always remained with him, regardless of whatever fantastic outfit or costume he wore or character he played. This poise made David Bowie the ultimate muse for any creator.
Soon after the screening, Generoso played multiple music videos across the decades of Bowie’s career, and right before my eyes I saw an incredible chameleon, a man able to do anything and a man who pushed to constantly re-invent himself across multiple forms of art. This will be said over and over again by journalists, fans, and any admirer of David Bowie, but the repetition makes it no less true: he was a fountain of inspiration.
At the time when I was digging into David Bowie’s music catalog, I was looking to completely shift gears from my formal science education and training into something far more creative: millinery. As I learned how to sketch and how to construct forms in wire, buckram, and fabric, I always asked myself who I would have wanted to wear the work I created, and David Bowie’s face always came up.
Since then, I’ve returned to science, and while Bowie may not be the muse for equations, he will always remain a muse in my hope for the extraordinary amongst the mundane in reality. Even four years later, when I saw him in The Man Who Fell To Earth again this past Saturday, his talent, beauty, and elegance still startled me.
David, I’ll always think of you when I do anything that requires an iota of creative thought. I’ll always think of you when I feel insecure about wearing a printed shirt, dress, jacket, or jumpsuit that I fear is too bright or too loud. I’ll always think of you when I need to be reminded of how great music can be. You’ve broken up the regular, monotonous moments of my life with your work and presence, and I’m forever grateful.
I can barely even think about this right now. It’s just so weird. David Bowie is immortal, right? He’s The Goblin King! The Thin White Duke! Cocaine couldn’t kill him. The 80s couldn’t kill him. Tin Machine couldn’t kill him.
Sadly, cancer could.
My love for Bowie has matured as I have, getting more into the albums than the singles, seeing the nuances of all of his different guises, feeling the pain behind the masks. If you think that Bowie was just a passive observer in his music, you’re wrong. So wrong. He wore his heart hidden in the pattern of his puffy sleeve.
His life was his art, and his art was his life. Sometimes, he got confused, as with the Station To Station era. (My favorite album, if only for the opening track, which is still pure bliss.) But he was an artist to the end, timing his last album to be released just days before he succumbed to his illness.
I’ll miss Ziggy. I’ll miss The Duke. I’ll miss Nathan Adler. But, most of all, I’ll miss David. He’s a Starman.
My Mom (whose favorite singers are Tony Bennett and Frank Sinatra) had probably only the vaguest idea who David Bowie was, until we saw the movie Labyrinth in the theater when it came out in 1986. Seeing a bewigged Bowie as the Goblin King, she sat up and wondered, “Who is that?” She never bought any of his albums or saw him in any other movies, but with that one movie, she was truly under his spell. That was the power of Bowie.
I grew up listening to Bowie on the radio, as so many people did, with “Golden Years” and “Let’s Dance.” And then when I got to college, I discovered there was so much more to him. Friends introduced me to his Hunky Dory album and “Life on Mars?” became my new favorite Bowie song. He was one of the rarest rock icons, who was known to everyone and yet remained a cult artist his entire life. There was a different David Bowie for every fan, not only because his look and his sound changed so often, but because there was so much of his work that remained unknown to the mainstream. Whether you loved him for “Andy Warhol” or “Jean Genie,” whether or not you’ve seen The Man Who Fell to Earth or The Hunger, there was an entire spectrum to Bowie fandom, from dilettantes to die-hards.
I was lucky enough to see him in 1990, when he was doing a retrospective tour of all his greatest hits. It was at the Tacoma Dome and my friend and I had great seats, seventh row, as I recall. And then, about five songs into the set, someone started running towards the stage. Despite our already fantastic vantage point, we rushed the stage too. How could you not? Now matter how close you were to him, it wasn’t close enough. Rest in peace, Starman.
I’ve loved David Bowie’s music for as long as I have consciously enjoyed pop music, but I can’t recall which of his songs I heard first. He was all over the radio in Boston when I was growing up. He was, in my young mind, a purveyor of classic rock. I could reasonably expect to hear Ziggy Stardust sandwiched between Ram Jam’s Black Betty and anything by Lynyrd Skynyrd, but it resonated with me in a way that those other muscular romps never would. When Let’s Dance came out, it seemed like the work of a different human.
His next few albums I forgot until Tin Machine. The band is much maligned to this day, but they reinvigorated Bowie’s creativity at a time when most had written him off. I’ll never forget hearing Under the God for the first time, wondering if Bowie had given up on Modern Love. A few years later, I was buying Tin Machine II the same day that I bought U2’s Achtung Baby and the Pixies Trompe Le Monde. The three records sounded like the world exploding and, to my young ears, the bombs were being detonated by the elder statesman. He paid homage to the Pixies on that tour opening Tin Machine shows with a cover of Debaser.
It was because of Tin Machine that I went back for the deep cuts on his classic records. I wonder time and again how he could morph so effortlessly from album to album and I’ve never stopped my hero worship. His partners too: Tony Visconti, Mick Ronson, Carlos Alomar, Stevie Ray Vaughn and Reeves Gabrels have made some of the most iconic hooks committed to record and they are all found on Bowie records. Be sure to check out Tony Visconti: The Autobiography: Bowie, Bolan and the Brooklyn Boy.
Marvin C. Pittman
The world existed some billions of years before David Bowie walked on it, and there will be billions more since he breathed his last breath. But I can’t say he’s dead, exactly. The energy that powered Bowie’s body has left it, but something tells me that energy continues, seeping into every note of his half-century of music. Only Bowie could celebrate his 69th birthday Friday with a new album, the atmospheric and jazzy Blackstar, and die Monday. Quietly, unassumingly, as if he said, “I’m gonna nip out for a bit, don’t mind me.”
Bowie is forever linked to comic books for me. My friend Rob managed Fat Jack’s Comicrypt in my West Philadelphia neighborhood, and played a ton of Bowie albums while I hung out in the store. He pushed his love of Bowie onto me beyond the pop star I knew as an ’80s child. And during that time, Mike Allred created the wonderful Red Rocket 7 comic book series, about an alien who becomes a rock star.
I got to see Bowie play live just once, in October 1997. He was deep in his electronic/industrial/noise rock phase then, with the Outside and Earthling albums. The were the first Bowie works I’d bought, as a teenager in Philadelphia. My friend Eitan and I were driven to the Electric Factory by his Orthodox Jewish parents after we’d lit the candles and recited the prayer to close the Sabbath. Eitan’s mom made him wear a thick sweater to a rock concert! Bowie had glitter in his hands when he performed “Hallo Spaceboy.” He sat down with an accoustic guitar and sang the lovely, depressive “Quicksand.” He hit the saxophone for “Pallas Athena.” My ears rang for three days.
Over the years since that night, I’ve picked up a lot more of Bowie’s work. But two moments live on in my memory the strongest.
At the Freddie Mercury tribute concert in 1992, after he’d finished a blistering set with the surviving members of Queen, after reuniting with Ziggy Stardust guitarist Mick Ronson (so vital to Bowie’s chords and arrangements, who died not long after that concert), and tearing down “Under Pressure” with Annie Lennox, Bowie unassumingly said, “I don’t normally do this …” and then knelt and recited the Lord’s Prayer. “Our Father, who art in heaven, hallowed be thy name …”
And second, today I think of those last lines in “The Heart’s Filthy Lesson,” that gothy-industrial boondoggle of a song made of cut-and-paste lyrics, Gail Ann Dorsey’s spanking bass, and Reeves Gabrels’ masturbatory guitar.
I think I’ve lost my way
I’m already five years older
I’m already in my grave
Will you carry me?
I’m ready, I think I’m on my way.
Bowie’s on his way, and the stars look very different today.
David Bowie is something like a mythical being. It’s hard to believe he ever walked among us, let alone shared his talent with the unprepared masses. As with most others my age, my first experience with Bowie was Labyrinth, which was shortly followed by The Hunger (which I still own and treasure on VHS). However, Bowie’s largest impact on me was when “Cat People (Putting Out the Fire)” brought the climax to a head in Inglorious Basterds. It’s incomprehensible… the sheer amount of reach this man had. Anything to do with the arts, there was Bowie. And I know that I and everyone I’ve ever known, or will ever meet, has been touched in one way or another by this lanky, gorgeous powerhouse.
Molly B. Denham
I woke up last night around 2:30am and did something I shouldn’t have done: I reached for my phone. And, after noting the time, I opened my Facebook app and began scrolling through my timeline… only to be immediately confronted with several instances of a set of words that made no sense to me.
“David Bowie Dies.”
While it had the air of authority of a BBC or CNN webpage (in my shock, I no longer remember which one it was), the words, taken together, still did not compute.
“David Bowie can’t die,” I mentally reasoned to the empty room, “He’s David Bowie.”
I took several moments to study and interpret the words, in plain English, separately and together. As their implications settled over me – but, mind you, not an understanding, never an understanding, of how they made any sense at all — I found myself thinking about the following:
- Seeing David Bowie perform “Little Drummer Boy” with Bing Crosby on a first-run, network TV Christmas special. And, even at age 6, thinking it was kind of weird.
- Roller-skating to “Under Pressure” at roller-rink birthday parties.
- “Let’s Dance,” with its triple singles of “Modern Love,” “China Girl,” and the title track arriving just in time to soundtrack junior high school dances straight out of John Hughes films.
- My Duran-Duran-fedora-wearing junior-high-school best friend who, sadly, moved away but who was IN LOVE WITH and “+” David Bowie, while I was IN LOVE WITH and “+” Remington Steele.
- Noting, in junior high, that all the British artists, bands, and detectives were cute and wore nice suits and deciding that I really, really liked everything about that.
- The woman with the long creepy fingernail in the “China Girl” video.
- Longingly listening to David Bowie and his band soundcheck “Modern Love” during the Serious Moonlight tour’s stop at Hershey Stadium when my friends and I were heading into Hershey Park for the day. Sadly, that was all I was going to hear, because I wasn’t able to win tickets to the concert from the radio station. As I stood there listening, it was like David Bowie was guest-starring in a Foreigner song.
- Thinking, at the time, “Really? Her name is ‘Blue Jean’?”
- Watching Sixteen Candles a million and one times and hearing “Young Americans” soundtrack the scene when they’re leaving for the wedding and Grandfather Howard yells, “Helen, get in the car!”
- The quote from “Changes” at the beginning of The Breakfast Club, which I also watched a million and one times.
- I still don’t understand Tin Machine.
- Learning the early Bowie classics from my freshman-year roommate, who listened to classic rock on WMMR all day.
- Buying the Serious Moonlight tour poster from the ‘80s Anglophile’s favorite mailorder company, Burning Airlines.
- Being incensed, in college, when Vanilla Ice “STOLE” the bass line from “Under Pressure.”
- The reverential way in which I would stare at Sigma Sound anytime I walked past.
- Finally seeing David Bowie in concert in the ‘90s. In late September on the lawn at an outside venue… in the midst of a typhoon.
- Realizing that much more than his music, or his films, or his personas, or his suits, the thing that I loved the most about David Bowie was what he stood for: an artistic, stylish kind of rock and a celebration of individuality.
- For forty years or so, David Bowie was the ringleader for a whole lot of kids who, for whatever reason, didn’t quite fit in.
Now these articles were saying that he was dead?
I simply didn’t understand.
All I knew was that I wouldn’t be getting any more sleep.