Aside from my Facebook page I didn’t really join in that publicly with the collective global grief expressed yesterday at the news of Bowie’s passing. This was largely because I couldn’t think of any tribute that didn’t sound in some way trite. The man was just too big. I can’t think of any cultural correlatives other than Elvis and John Lennon, and I hadn’t therefore really felt what I was feeling yesterday, I realized last night, since 1980 when news broke of John Lennon’s murder. A friend of mine expressed the feeling very well on Facebook in the morning: ‘F**king hell. Even though I wasn’t his greatest fan it’s not right that he’s no longer in the world. He’s always been around. David Bowie shouldn’t be dead, for f**k’s sake.’
I’ve lost a lot of heroes since John Lennon – Ian Curtis, Lux Interior, Syd Barrett, Iain Banks, half the original cast of Star Trek – but however many fans were heart-broken, and whatever the impact, it wasn’t the same as yesterday. And like many of the people grieving, I wouldn’t even count myself as a hardcore Bowie fan, inasmuch as I wasn’t religiously following every new album after the ones that inspired me as a kid. Like the majority of the post-punk X-ers, it is the images of the Ziggy Stardust era that immediately leap into my head at the mention of his name, while I think the last new album I bought was Scary Monsters. But that’s not important. My major, probably life-changing engagement with Bowie was appropriate to my age and generation – an introduction to avant-garde art, a prelude to punk and a clarion call to the out-of-step and the sexually confused. But this was just a single phase in his consistently innovative existence. It makes you think about true genius, doesn’t it? Admit it, when you try to think of an artist – especially one whose chosen medium is rock and roll – that has gone the distance, consistently developing and expanding their art, rather than falling into self-parody and pastiche, tell me that you don’t immediately think of David Bowie.
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