Shine bright, Starman

Bowie-Big

David Bowie has always been there – as far back as I remember knowing about music, I remember knowing about Bowie.

I didn’t always know his music but was very familiar with his image. I have vivid memories of his face on the cover of magazines wearing white makeup and with orange, spiky hair. Or was it blonde hair with a wavy fringe and just a hint of makeup?

I didn’t quite know what to make of David Bowie – I knew he appeared odd, but at the same time he looked so cool and funky. Whatever I knew of him at a young age, I knew one thing – this guy is a star, a real rock star. Not of this world.

I didn’t even always like his music. It took a long time to filter through to me – I was aware of his music but didn’t pay much attention to it, apart from some of his 1980s hits like Dancing in the Street, China Girl and Let’s Dance. In retrospect, I did also know plenty of older Bowie songs, like Heroes, The Jean Genie and Rebel Rebel, but more as background tunes rather than soundtracks to my youth.

But as a massive Queen fan, I absolutely loved Under Pressure. As much as I adored Freddie Mercury at the time, it was Bowie’s voice that stood out most for me on that track.

Then there was Tin Machine II and You Belong in Rock n’ Roll. It was probably here that I first appreciated the timbre and tone of Bowie’s voice, which I tried to emulate in my own way of singing. Needless to say I never came close!

It was only in more recent years however, that I finally explored the Bowie back catalogue in earnest and found new favourites among his classic works: Space Oddity, Life on Mars, Heroes, Starman and Ziggy Stardust.

I also found his turn as Nikola Tesla in The Prestige mesmerising, wondering why we did not see his presence on the silver screen more.

Presence – that is something Bowie has always had.

He has always been there. Like a long lost cousin you knew growing up.

A presence we didn’t anticipate losing yet.

We weren’t prepared for this. Hence the shock and sadness at his sudden departure, which has affected me as much, if not more, than the death of other artists I loved, most notably Freddie Mercury.

It’s hard to compare the levels of grief at the loss of two loved figures in your life, but I was younger and more resilient (or rather, less emotionally mature) when Mercury died. I had had less time to reflect on my own life and mortality. Besides, it never felt like Freddie really left – his music and spirit has been there all these years and have helped inspire and comfort me countless times over.

With Bowie it is different. His star on this planet burned longer. His presence has been there always.

With his loss, a constant has been removed from our universe – one which those of us who have always know him, may simply not have the time or energy to replace.

The stars look very different now…

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