January 10th 2016 is the day David Bowie died. Or the day his journey on Earth came to an end.
And what a journey it was. Musically, he left us a goldmine discography; one draped in velvet and as broadly transcendent as any. From his early success with Space Oddity in 1969 Bowie pointed us to the great unknown. As Major Tom, an astronaut who slips the bonds of the world to journey beyond the stars, he first spoke to our insecurities, as Ziggy Stardust, the androgynous, flame-haired, platform-booted rock star alien, he created an icon and as Aladdin Sane (a pun on A Lad Insane) a rock iconoclast was born. Then came the impeccably dressed Thin White Duke, “a nasty character indeed” according to Bowie. Through Halloween Jack, the protagonist of Diamond Dogs; a rebellious predecessor to punk, and onto his final reincarnation, Blackstar, a man in distress finding solitude and acceptance via his imagination.
Bowie was Lazarus throughout, the man who reincarnated time and time again.
As a master of the persona he made the radical accessible, his enduring ability to adapt, musically, stylistically and conceptually created waves in our collective consciousness. Though often cited as being a creative chameleon, to me that metaphor rings false, for where chameleons adapt to their existing surroundings Bowie carved his own; instead of tapping into the zeitgeist, Bowie tuned it.
Yet beneath it all, stripping back those fantastical guises and make-up stood a Brixton boy who understood that life didn’t necessarily mean ‘fitting in’ – rather the opposite, in fact –, he championed being oneself; in that strangely individual manner idiosyncratic to us all. Just like Major Tom, every now and again we all find ourselves floating in a most peculiar way, Bowie taught us to embrace this. He guided us to fly further, strive for uniqueness and reach for the stars. He taught us to dream.
Will there ever be anyone who exudes such oddness, such sexiness, such brilliance? This is impossible to say. But one thing is guaranteed, if one day a figure does come along with even a pinch of the same sensibilities as his, they will have been influenced by David Bowie, that much is certain.
And for a moment, amongst all the celestial qualities and dazzling output, we actually forgot you were human, maybe that is why this hurts the most, maybe that is why we didn’t believe the news at first. You had us tricked, Bowie.
Safe trip home, Starman. You were right all along, you really did blow our minds.
“Oh I’ll be free,
Just like that bluebird,
Oh I’ll be free,
Ain’t that just like me”