Sound and Vision.

bowieZiggy Stardust is dead. The Thin White Duke is gone. To say I’m gutted is a complete understatement. I’d been worried for a while because we hadn’t seen much of him. My heart knew it was coming and I’d steeled myself against the inevitable. He had some heart issues and remained reclusive, quietly releasing some pretty great albums the past few years. Then Black Star appeared over the weekend and I was relieved. Maybe, just maybe, we’d have him a little longer.

As I scrolled through the tributes tears fell. God I hate when I’m right. Even though I’d been prepared for this, I really wasn’t. To say David Bowie was one of a kind is an understatement. His death will unleash a multitude of homages like this one. Mine is not the best or most insightful by far. Because this tribute is all about me. I’m suffering from inverted empathy. A narcissism of borrowed tragedy. Which aren’t even my words, but this guy’s. Of course I’m devastated he left behind a wife, a son, a fifteen-year-old daughter. But I’m sad my hero is gone. I’m just one woman whose life he touched, whose performance whether in music or movies reminded me there’s something more than what you see. Than what you’re told.

Every generation has their God whether it’s Sinatra, Elvis, Lennon, Dylan. Bowie was mine. Bowie taught me it was okay to be weird. In fact, it was preferable. Bowie fought to be weird. He kept fighting, kept changing no matter how old he got or what shit our culture put forth. He ignored it all. His vision was crystal clear and he playfully invited us along for the ride time and again. He was never swayed by modern conventions or rules of success. A master of changing identity to match his inner vision. And he did it all behind a cool debonair demeanor that never let you know what he was feeling. He never set out to define what he meant but let you determine that for yourself. Never elitist or snooty. Just a simple here it is. Make of it what you will.

Because he didn’t wear his heart on his sleeve people describe him as alien. But like the rest of us his imperfect human body gave out. Way too fucking early. His spirit, still so alive, still so creatively vibrant, just couldn’t be contained by that shell of human skin. Bowie had other places to go. Things to do. And isn’t that just like him? To release one final stabbing masterpiece before leaving us for other dimensions. Bowie never settled, never sat back on his laurels like other aging rock stars. He always obliterated artistic boundaries whether in music or film. I mean, have you SEEN The Man Who Fell to Earth?! There will never be another one. He is the master. He is it.

I’ve followed his music like an acolyte since discovering Hunky Dory as a child. But my most Bowie-esque memory is the first time I heard “Where Are We Now?” which was released in 2013. We’d landed very late after a long flight delay in Denver and driven hours through the dark to our destination. The roads were curvy and the tall black shadows of mountains rose up on either side like monoliths. I tried to find something, anything on our rental car radio. After long minutes of searching I got a distant signal, a local station that barely came in, the fuzz and static covering the faint strains of song like a shroud. I strained to hear and could have sworn it was Bowie. It was. What song was this? I listened and the haunting tones came through like a sherpa through the pitch black moonscape. It was a song I’d never heard and I marveled to think I was hearing such a stunningly beautiful thing for the first time in this setting. I felt like Bowie was singing to me from outer space. Which I suppose in a way was always true.

Of all Bowie’s work, The Hunger is the one I’ll probably remember most. It was the background music to my teenage years. Every Saturday night my friends and I would put this movie on while we were talking or drinking or just fucking around. The dark, uber-cool feel of The Hunger served as the base for which I built all my other appreciation of art and music and fashion. It came out at a time when I was tired of the status quo, when I needed something new. Bowie, through his music and movies showed me there was something else. Something more. I loved that movie so much I wanted to fucking live in it. Still kinda do.

After learning the news I went outside in an attempt to enjoy the day, walking my dog Claudine with Bowie in my ears. Bright glints of sunlight like chips of ice. Glacier blue skies. White clouds that resembled slashes of dirty snow someone had thrown upon a canvas. Numbing cold. Sound and Vision came on and I cried at the appropriateness of it.

“I will sit right down,
Waiting for the gift of sound and vision
And I will sing, waiting for the gift of sound and vision
Drifting into my solitude,
over my head

Don’t you wonder sometimes
‘Bout sound and vision..”

Isn’t that what Bowie did? What he always did? What he never stopped doing? What we as artists should always do? Show up, every day, sit down to work, then get quiet, listen, wait, and hope for that gift of inspiration. For that gift of sound. Of vision. Never stop fighting for it.

There’s just no other way of saying it. Bowie kicked ass. To his dying day he kicked so much ass. He wasn’t an alien. He was a beast. The Prettiest Star. Godspeed…

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