While still reeling from the absolutely devastating news of David Bowie’s passing, we wondered how we could best celebrate the life of an artist so unmatched by any other that the reverberations of his craft will be felt for the rest of our lives. Instead of making playlists or sharing videos, we thought we’d write down memories, musings and more on the man who gave the world so much vibrancy and joy. While it’s true that our pale blue cosmic bastion has lost one of the greats, the legacy of Bowie will shine on forever.
In no particular order, our writers share their feelings about the man who fell to earth.
Hilary A. White
The funny thing is I have no claim to David Bowie. I wasn’t there. Not when he killed Ziggy Stardust in ‘73. Not to wonder at what his convalescing in Berlin would yield. I was too young or too apathetic to attend his much-mythologised Dublin shows in the Baggot Inn, Olympia or Point. I don’t have platform shoes, and not just because they’re hard to come by in size 16, nor are my vinyl copies of Low or Hunky Dory scuffed from 40 years of nightly rotation.
No, discovering Bowie 20 years ago through bands like Mansun and Suede makes me a relative newcomer in the grand scheme of things. I’d always known what he was and accepted him as part of the general pop backdrop. I once met a man who had a woolly Aladdin Sane tattoo on his bicep and shrugged in disbelief at my cheek after I asked him why. I saw a 50-year-old woman erupt to life like a teenager to ‘Young Americans’ at a funeral wake. Years on, the 15-year-old me tried and failed to perfect the bass-slaps of ‘Ashes To Ashes’ in my bedroom but I can’t pretend that the song was a staple of that Doors-mad period.
How then do I end up years later flying to London to see the David Bowie exhibition in London’s V&A and queuing for hours to get in? Why do I start reading books and buying magazine specials on this musician? Why did I spend one of my eight precious days in New York sitting in the window of a SoHo bar in the hope I might catch a glimpse of him leaving his apartment across the road? Why did my girlfriend make me sit down before she delivered news of his death at 7.30am on Monday morning? And why did I cry into her shoulder moments afterwards and remain fragile for while later?
Bowie came to signify so much to me as my life palette broadened. The filter narrowed and this gangly, chain-smoking creature from London emerged as something crystal-cut, something that was a singularity of soul, daring and art who I gradually pushed out to a very select archipelago of awe. I couldn’t get enough. It felt like the world had had a head start and I tripped over myself to catch up. The mysteries consumed me. The effortless cool was a cryptic crossword and the energy of his reinventions and left-hand turns, from soul to glam right up to drum and bass, were the stuff of theoretical physics. It wasn’t so much “who is Bowie?” as “how is Bowie?”
The sensation remained on loop. There’s he is suddenly collaborating with Trent Reznor. A few years later, it’s Arcade Fire. Then he’s there, casually bringing the planet to standstill with an abrupt “comeback” single called ‘Where Are We Now’, less a question than a taunt. And yet it wasn’t a “comeback” as he was never gone, really. The regular parachute drops were to remind us that hewould always come and go as he pleased, looking and sounding stunning in the winter of his years and making a mockery of the “Greatest Hits Tour” lot.
So, no, I’m not one of those people contacting radio shows with anecdotes about meeting him on the Quays or sharing a fag down Baggot Close. My silver isn’t tarnished by Tin Machine or that reportedly iffy 1987 Slane headliner. I never interviewed him so I can’t say what a really nice, down- to-earth, regular bloke he was (even though I’m sure he was). And I’m OK with all that. More than OK, in fact. The idea that he was genetically different to me and composed of atoms that I cannot comprehend works better for me. It makes him every bit more precious. And eternal.
Admittedly, when it came to David Bowie’s music, I was a casual fan. I would dip into his back catalogue from time to time but the theatricality and sheer originality made some of his music (for me) difficult to unfurl. Ironically, it’s these qualities that will ensure Bowie is never forgotten.
It was during college when I was introduced to Low, listening to and deconstructing ‘Warszawa’ that I understood the depth of Bowie’s creative well. Released at the height of the punk movement, Low was the statement of an artist unconcerned with following trends. The release of his newest (and sadly, last) album Blackstar shows us again the strength of his songwriting abilities and also his uncompromising uniqueness.
It feels surreal to write a piece about the life of David Bowie. For me (and I think many others) David Bowie was timeless. It’s hard to believe that The Man Who Fell To Earth is no longer with us. In terms of both music and art, he was an artist the world had never seen before and may never see again. Fearless, inventive and hugely inspirational are but a few words to describe him.
There is no question that the day of his death was a sad day for everyone but Bowie has left a legacy behind him that will continue to inspire generations. Although it may be hard right now, we should celebrate his life, music and art. I for one feel lucky to have shared my time on earth with him and am looking forward to delving deeper in to all that his life’s work has to offer.
My older brother is completely responsible for any exposure to David Bowie I had as a child and it’s something I am extremely grateful for. Back in the heyday of DVDs, I remember watching the best of Bowie’s music videos regularly. Whether we were giggling at his and Jagger’s moves in ‘Dancing in the Street’ or mesmerised by the abstract ‘China Girl’, each video offered a different side to him. That two disc DVD taught me the true meaning of versatility.
I had always been fascinated with music but what stood out to me about Bowie, was that he could consistently reinvent his image or sound without sacrificing his artistic integrity. From the hard hitting ‘Rebel Rebel’, to ‘Let’s Dance’, to his collaboration with Trent Reznor, he was clearly a man who took influence from everywhere and dispersed it throughout his music accordingly. He was the most unique artist the world has ever seen and has inspired everyone from Marilyn Manson to Kanye West. It may sound cheesy, but his spirt will most definitely live on, both through his own music and the massive impression he has left on all of us.
Glastonbury 2000. I’ve arrived down in Somerset on a day off and pitched up at the festival site. Not sure if it’s the case now but in those days if you waited till late Sunday afternoon they just opened the gates and you could walk in for the last few hours. It’s a beautiful evening and a wonderful place to be, even if Embrace are a little disappointing on the main stage. To be honest, it’s probably not been the festival’s finest musical hour – Travis headlined yesterday and Reef were third on the bill (REEF!) but there’s something magical still to come. I wouldn’t have classed myself a huge David Bowie fan before – and probably still didn’t afterwards – but, for two hours, I’m hooked. It’s a masterclass in how to do this sort of thing – I mean just look at the set list. My only real Bowie memory, yet one to treasure.