Black Hole Zion: 2016

Tuesday, January 12, 2016

The Loss of David Bowie

The loss of David Bowie.  Those are the words I keep hearing in my head and feeling in my guts.  This is difficult for me to write as I sit listening to his last album, Blackstar.  I don't normally get upset about celebrity deaths, but this one is so different and has shaken me.  I know a lot of people are writing about how David Bowie has impacted their lives.  Please permit me, another nobody in the vast universe, to do the same.  It is difficult to articulate the feeling of loss associated with someone you've never met when they have been so influential on your life. 

David Bowie showed me how powerful and diverse one artist could be.  Many instances before I actually considered myself a David Bowie fan, I would hear a song of his and think, "That's awesome!  Who is that?!".  When I investigated, I would find out that, again, it was Bowie.  Then one night when I was out with a college friend, I heard "Life on Mars?" and it flipped a switch in my head.  I felt like David Bowie was talking directly to me.  When he sang, "Is there life on Mars?” it summed up the same questions I had been asking and still ask myself.  Is there somewhere better out there than this place we've made on Earth?  Why do we act so horribly?  Why do I feel so different and alone?  After that night, I went out and bought each Bowie album that the closest retailer to me had in stock and dug in.  The Rise and Fall of Ziggy Stardust and the Spiders from Mars, Diamond Dogs, Low, etc...  I discovered how amazing and varied the music was.  I became a David Bowie fan.

I would not be in the amazing marriage I am in today without David Bowie.  When I started dating Natalie, the woman that I would one day marry, so much of our relationship was built on David Bowie's music.  When we drove around, we usually listened to a Bowie album together, sang along, or did some type of bizarre choreographed percussion.  She bought me books on David Bowie.  We watched any movie he was in that we could find, but my favorite was The Man Who Fell to Earth.  "Our song" was, and still is, Soul Love.  In May 2004, just two months before we were going to get married, we saw David Bowie in concert.  Before that concert, I even was silly enough to send an email to the contact section of David Bowie's website and request that he play a song dedicated to the woman I was marrying.  Of course that never happened.  I would be surprised if the message was ever even passed on to The Thin White Duke, but I had to ask it anyway.  David Bowie created the soundtrack to the early relationship with my wife and our marriage that extends today.  There are only a few artists that mean so much to both of us, and Bowie was the God-Emperor of the known universe they all existed in. 

It is even more difficult to describe the impact that Bowie had on me as a musician.  People use the term "literally" too often.  However, I can say that I literally woke to the news of the loss of David Bowie.  Very early on the morning of January 11th, I woke to the sound of messages from my Black Hole Zion friends and band mates, George, Ryan, and Corey about the news.  I also had messages from another friend and current band mate, Jamie Lee Renfield, and Nate, a friend and former band mate from Screw Worm.  These are all people that I've known for varying lengths of time.  They all knew how much David Bowie meant to me and he meant a lot to them too.  That's undoubtedly a reason why we have/had musical connections to each other.

I always had a tendency to write and play aggressive or darker types of music.  I have also felt frustrated or bored with the limitations that sometimes come along with those same styles of music both in sound and how one was "supposed" to look or act.  While I would never presume anything I wrote to be as good as David Bowie, he gave me a path to know that it was OK to be dissatisfied and to make something your own or do whatever you felt like.  If I wanted to write music for a play or a short film, record and produce other people's music regardless of the style, dress up as a hilarious "glampire" playing punk rock, or write and play anything from ambient right-brain music to heavy space metal with some of my best friends in Black Hole Zion, it was all OK.  Black Hole Zion, as a concept and an execution, would not exist without David Bowie.  I would not be the musician I am without David Bowie.  I would not be the person I am without David Bowie.  Thank you, David Bowie.

David Bowie left us a gift with Blackstar.  No matter how much we may fail to achieve his level of greatness, David Bowie made it OK to be weird and have fun.  The best thing we can do is keep trying.  His music and message are what keep me from feeling only sadness and loss.  When I hear the lyrics of the title track, I really think it's what he would have wanted.

"Something happened on the day he died
Spirit rose a metre and stepped aside
Somebody else took his place, and bravely cried
(I’m a blackstar, I’m a blackstar)"

Keep having fun, keep being weird, and keep going out into the stars.  Thanks, David Bowie, for falling to Earth and spending a little time with all of us nobodies floating around in space.