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David Bowie was…
I can’t believe I’m having to write ‘was’. Like so many people, it feels like he was part of my life.
David Bowie was, is, my one and only real idol. Like so many before and after me, I came across him when I was a teenager. Up to then I’d been listening to the usual young teenager’s chirpy, easy to digest tunes. It was the early eighties, so the first Bowie songs I heard were Let’s Dance, China Girl and Modern Love. But I must’ve liked what I heard so much that over the next few years I bought all his albums – on cassette tape, of course. (Except Pin Ups, which for some reason I couldn’t bear to buy – I didn’t want to have bought everything. I still haven’t downloaded Pin Ups even today). I read books about him, magazine articles, watched his films and soaked up all I could find. And in listening to all his work, which even in the 80s spanned several previous decades, of course I heard such an amazingly wide variety of music.
When I sat my A levels, it was at a time when we all had to do a ‘General Studies’ A level. I don’t know if that’s still in existence. It covered a bit of everything – culture, science, humanities, etc. I think it was meant to ensure we had a rounded general knowledge. (Our teacher told us that we needed to do General Studies in order to help us when we got to university – so that we would be able to make conversation with students who’d been to public school! What a thing to say!) Anyway, in the exam I had to do 3 essay questions. I vaguely remember one was arts based, one science, and one history. Anyway, the essay title was irrelevant to me. It was the height of my passion and fascination in Bowie. So I wrote 3 essays about him, and not a word about science or anything I should have written about.
I got an O grade. Which is basically a fail. I have always been quite proud of that.
I’ve been lucky enough to see him twice in concert. The first time was when I was 17, and I was studying in Italy for a few months. I saw him in a football stadium outside Florence. I was miles away from the stage, but it was a thrilling experience.
The second time was in the ‘90s, in Glasgow. It was a much smaller affair, maybe about 12,000 people or less. I was very near the stage. It was amazing; he was absolutely mesmeric. Incredible.
What I love about David Bowie is his bravery. He had the courage to try new things, to change direction, to be prepared to fail. He could so easily have toured the world for years, spinning out the same songs again and again. But he wasn’t interested in that. He wanted to explore, to live his life on his on terms. I really admire that. How fantastic to have lived a life so rich and full. To have made the most of the precious gift of life.
And I love how he seemed to grow and mature in the last decade or so. He seemed to me to be such a family man, and to be so humble and dignified. So many people I’ve heard on the radio today, people who met him or worked with him, have talked about what a kind man he was. They say how generous and how courteous he was. Never mind the music and everything, for me, when we die, if people remember us as kind, I think that’s really as good as it gets.
From my teenage years, to now, David Bowie made me think. He’ll continue to make me think. This time it is about life, and death, and kindness, and love. Thank you David.