It’s Saturday night and I’m writing, drinking a glass of red wine and listening to Bowie. Honestly, I don’t normally listen to the Thin White Duke but it kind of feels like I should after this week. My husband is a huge fan. He shed a few tears on Monday. Watched endless documentaries (which kind of said the same things in different ways) and paid homage to his ‘idol’. He was genuinely gutted to hear the news.
Like so many others he has always had a strange fascination and weird kind of love affair with David Bowie. An intriguing, artistic, rebellious chameleon, Bowie was one of those rare humans who stood apart from the rest of us and continued to be cool throughout his life. Generations would spread the news of his creative anarchy and with these secret whispers this magical creature continued to be revered.
I was shocked to hear the news of his death. It’s sad when someone passes away, especially when they have contributed so much to society. But what shocked me more was how much media coverage this story received. It was interesting to see the outpouring of grief, the celebration of his achievements, the analysis of his legacy. People said he’d orchestrated his final days. Continued to subvert expectations even in his death. And this maybe so. But I couldn’t help feeling a little bit sorry for him – the man not the musician.
It’s wonderful that he achieved so many personal accomplishments in his life. That he touched so many people with his lyrics and his melodies. But to live your life so publicly is a huge responsibility to bear and one that even in his death he couldn’t shake away. I don’t know the man but I do know he made his path like we all do and it was probably a road he accepted and chose. Death is such a private and personal thing. It’s hard to believe that anyone would really want the world to share in this so openly.
When I heard the speculation that David was actually cremated shortly after his death, alone, without any fuss I smiled to myself. I was glad for him and for me at that point the penny dropped. The album, the morbid lyrics, the rather disturbing Lazarus video was a goodbye. A fanfare from the David Bowie the general public think they know. But the real person perhaps wanted to be left to die, with no big MJ style televised showy funeral or overzealous public outpourings of emotion. He was just being him.
I like his music but I don’t love it. My youth was spent listening to Oasis and Shed Seven and Indie/ Britpop tunes. He has however ‘spoken’ to me at various points in my life. One of which was walking back down the aisle on my wedding day to Absolute Beginners. I love the line, ‘As long as we’re together, the rest can go to hell.’ Having absolute belief in your relationship being all you need to survive resonated with me and my husband. It’s still our mantra.
When I first heard of his death I felt sadness for his family. To lose a husband, partner, father, brother, grandfather is absolutely heart breaking. But what really connected me to him this time was the word ‘cancer’ and I think that is probably why my husband was also so moved. It reminded us yet again that it doesn’t matter who you are, what you’ve done, how much you’ve achieved – none of us can escape our fate. Cancer levels the field.
This week I’ve thought a lot about Iman, David’s wife. What she must have gone through over the past few months. How she must have felt. The sleepless nights. The worry. The overwhelming feelings of loss and helplessness and fear. Death comes to us all but when you know it is coming it’s all the more painful to deal with.
At the end of the day, although we think Bowie is ours. Although we want to celebrate who he was and dance in the streets about his talents. He was just a man. A human being who talked and worked and lived a life of his choosing. He wasn’t an alien or some immortal being. He was just having fun. I like the fact he chose to go alone. It seems respectful and humble and real. It’s a glimpse of the true David.