Reason #1- I was afraid of shorting out my keyboard with my blubbering.
Reason #2- I needed to process the reality of his loss.
Reason #3- I didn't want to post a hastily written "tribute" that said little of why I was and still am inspired by him.
Several days have passed now since he took his place among the stars and I feel I can at last write about him and his incredible influence on me.
I suppose I always knew who he was. At least, I could always identify him: weird, skinny guy, sometimes made-up, sometimes not, maybe bisexual, possibly an alien... David Bowie. He was just kind of there somewhere on the edges of my consciousness, inhabiting a space I didn't often visit. Then, for some reason, I began to see him everywhere. He was online, in odd references, on television, even on an episode of Spongebob Squarepants (It's Atlantis Squarepantis, btw.)
Lord Royal Highness has two different colored eyes.
I've come to recognize this phenomenon as an important clue to something significant. It often happens when I'm on the brink of some sort of personal discovery, breakthrough or transition. I decided to give that sparkly, strange man a chance and see what he was all about. I found myself utterly intrigued, but it took a while longer to figure out why. Oh sure, he was pretty to look at and he was great to watch and listen to, but there was one thing that stood out above all that for me. He seemed absolutely fearless.
Maybe fearless was all part of the act, but from what I've read and seen and listened to, I get a sense that Bowie did what he did without explanation or apology. He never seemed too hung up on the critics. He wrote and sang and shocked and amazed in his strange clothes and wild antics, putting himself out there, not for anyone's approval, but because that was what he did.
When I "discovered" David Bowie, I was in a period of upheaval and transition. For many years before that time I had held back from artistic expression out of fear: fear of failure, fear of criticism, fear of rejection, etc. I had not put myself out there in order to spare myself the pain of disappointment. I saw in Bowie a personal bravery that I wanted to claim. I wasn't ready for balloon pants or sequined platform boots, but I was ready to let go of my fear and put my work, myself, my heart on the line. And best of all, I wanted to do it for ME. I heard a wonderful quote from him in an interview that perfectly summed up what I wanted to accomplish:
"...An audience's appreciation is only going to be periodic at the best of times; you fall in and out of favor continually. I don't think it should be something one should be looking for. I think you should turn 'round at the end of the day and say "I really liked that piece of work," or "That piece of work sucked." Not, "Was that popular or wasn't it popular?'"
1988 Interview with Joe Smith
I decided to stop worrying about what everyone else thought of me and my work and just do what I do and enjoy it. That time opened up into one of the most energetic and creatively productive times in my life so far. I wrote more than I had written in years. I sang, I sketched, I painted, I played. It was incredibly fulfilling and I felt a deep sense of gratitude toward David Bowie for sparking it.
Last Friday, Bowie's 69th birthday, my husband and I went out for dinner and rambling downtown. We found ourselves on a comfy leather couch in front of a big screen television and one of the music channels was playing the footage from the 1973 Odeon Concert (the Retirement Gig.) We sat and watched and marveled at the spectacle that was David Bowie. I'm so glad now that we shared that time; that we were able to appreciate him while he was alive. By Monday, he was gone.
I'm still coming to grips with the reality that he has departed forever, but I am so grateful to have access to the enormous body of work he left behind. He was a creative genius, a brilliant performer, and an innovative thinker who was way ahead of his time in many ways. He'll never be forgotten.
"It's only forever..."