Goodbye, David Bowie

“David Bowie, dead at age 69.” Those words were akin to a punch to the solar plexus.

I was in the car with my girlfriend when the news broke, her hand instinctively squeezing mine as we both gasped in tandem. She knew how much he meant to me.

David Bowie and I were introduced years ago. I had purchased a dusty vinyl copy of Aladdin Sane at the ripe age of 14. At the time my boyhood chum Andrew was concerned, pressing as to why I would take interest in something so presumably camp and fey. His Led Zeppelin affinity of our adolescent years stood in stark contrast to the lightning bolt androgyny I was inexplicably drawn to.

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David Bowie’s Aladdin Sane on vinyl.

When the needle hit the groove and “Drive-In Saturday” started to hum through the speakers it all made sense. It coalesced. I had discovered my sound. My storyteller. My alien. From there I had only one mission: To get my hands on everything the man ever recorded.

[With Bowie] I had discovered my sound, my storyteller, my alien.

Weeks later I huddled subserviently around the family computer, utilizing the music pirating glory of Kazaa, downloading what many music critics had declared to be Bowie’s seminal work: Low. Those synthesizers. His detached, comatose singing. That heavily treated orange album sleeve. I was never the same.

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David Bowie’s Low on vinyl.

David Bowie’s music rewired my way of listening and in turn led me to new artists (i.e. Brian Eno, NEU!, Robert Fripp, etc.). And yet, I always stayed true. I always returned, unearthing new nuances of his discography.

Upon hearing of his sudden passing…my ears stayed glued to BBC radio for the remainder of the morning as we drove from North London to the historic town of Bath.

Strange, but it felt rather fitting to be visiting the U.K. upon hearing of his sudden passing. His new album Blackstar had just come out days earlier. Moreover, his return to music remained the talk of London and its subsequent music stores.

The day of his death on January 10th, my ears stayed glued to BBC radio for the remainder of the morning as we drove from North London to the historic town of Bath.

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Myles in Bath, England. Photo by Myles Herod

Remembrances and recollections came swarming from on-air callers, intermittently abridged by classics such as “Starman” and “Let’s Dance” but also obscure favourites including “Sound and Vision” and the tranquil instrumental “Moss Garden.”┬áThe gentle Japanese koto of the latter will particularly linger long in my memory as we glided along the misty English motorway whilst I held back tears.

The gentle Japanese koto of [Moss Garden] will particularly linger long in my memory as we glided along the misty English motorway whilst I held back tears.

Shrines cropped up in London almost immediately, notably on Heddon Street (where the famous cover photo for Ziggy Stardust was taken) and in the district of Brixton – Bowie’s birthplace.

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Location of Ziggy Startdust cover photo. Photo by Myles Herod

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The Bowie Memorial. Photo by Myles Herod

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Flowers at the Bowie Memorial. Photo by Myles Herod

I eventually made my way to both, finding fans paying their respects. Sombreness was the palpable mood, some visitors visibly crying, others standing stoically as if contemplating the effect Bowie had on their lives.

Sombreness was the palpable mood, some visitors visibly crying, others standing stoically as if contemplating the effect Bowie had on their lives.

One instance found a gentleman of his mid-twenties producing a black plastic cube from his jacket, settling it amongst the flowers and mementos. Soon after, he simply stepped back. A sound began to emanate from the miniature box. It was the infectiously recognizable strumming of “Starman” – not only a recurring musical commemoration of my trip but an apt epitaph if there ever was one.

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Letter of tribute left by fan at the Bowie Memorial. Photo by Myles Herod

Everything, even to his death, was a work of art. From a fictitious alien who sang of space and supermen, a paranoid purveyor of funk and European electronic music to a 1980’s pop star and beyond. David Bowie concluded his odyssey a blackstar, releasing his 25th album of the same name on his 69th birthday, dying a mere two days later.

[H]is exit will forever be sublime. He influenced millions, including myself…

Was he aware the end was imminent? Yes or no, his exit will forever be sublime. He influenced millions, including myself, making it acceptable to be different and revel in the infinite possibilities.

As he said it best, “Let all the children boogie.”

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Starman Tribute. Photo by Myles Herod