You already know. The waking world knows that David Bowie is gone, and those asleep will find out within minutes of waking. This is big news and you might confuse it as the usual internet drama machine that wrings its hands and fake wails whenever anyone at all dies. You would be so very wrong.
Amongst my peers I am seeing genuine sadness today, true broken hearts. I don’t cry for people I don’t know but today even I cried in the car. My partner asked if I had heard and I sharply replied that until a real source cited it (at the time only The Hollywood Reporter had) I was sure it was a hoax. I was convinced this was Not True. Minutes later the confirmation happened.
Everyone who is famous will mean the world to someone; their presence will inspire and save lives (my own bands who saved me were Placebo and Nine Inch Nails, for example). And yes in this digital world we all express our opinions en masse be it about X-Factor or Leonard Nimoy passing. That doesn’t mean it’s always the same impact. That doesn’t mean people are wanking on the internet for attention.
For me it was Bowie’s image rather than his music which inspired me first. Being a fat, awkward child and teenager (and adult, to be honest) who only knew about combat trousers and hanky tops (1999-2001) and had TOTP and SM:TV. The internet was not big at the time so I was limited to what I could discover. But there was this shining light who was so free. It was OK to like boys and girls – surrounded by straight friends this was massive to know. It was OK to not dress exclusively male, exclusively female. To present as nothing before (again, to my eyes as other legends of the 70’s I wasn’t aware of in the 90’s. My mother listened to Metallica) and to be so bright you are superhuman that we did not believe you could ever die, that your light could be extinguished.
The music for me came later. It’s not something I can touch on very well as I am not someone who knows about music very much so I always feel foolish discussing it. I keep it private, inside me; knowing what I like, what sounds beautiful, what elevates me from the shit but fearful of sounding stupid and ignorant. But let’s just say it completed the picture of this Super Being.
I have read of generations today of people to whom his music, his presence meant so much. First meetings, dates, weddings and funerals. Queer children like myself I’m seeing where things were made easier by discovering him.
We weren’t alone. We weren’t freaks. We didn’t have to hide.
How liberating this was.