I am still reeling from waking up at 4:00 a.m. today and seeing my Facebook feed full of European news agencies reporting on the death of David Bowie at the age of 69 from cancer. All the more shocking as he had kept his battle private and only turned 69 two days ago – an event marked on social media by many, including myself, with the reposting of a wonderful animation by an English artist of Bowie’s ever changing looks. I’m truly perplexed by my severe reaction to his passing. Sure I grew up listening to his music, evolved with his musical style through the 70s and 80s and had his Harlequin-like Glamour poster hanging on my teenage bedroom wall, but I didn’t know him and sadly never saw him in concert, at least that I can remember. As author Mona Eltahawy tweeted more aptly “I remember when Ian Curtis and John Lennon died. I was a pre-teen at the time. But Bowie’s death is a reminder of my childhood & mortality.”
A renaissance man who shared his musical genius with the world, Bowie was also an excellent actor. An ever evolving chameleon who immersed himself totally into his characters from Ziggy Stardust to The Thin White Duke, Bowie actually starred in major motion pictures. In 1976 my father brought me to see him in The Man Who Fell to Earth, a film adaptation of the 1963 sci-fi novel of the same name by Walter Tevis (Oh and by the way I just requested it as part of my teenage sons cultural education so you better get on that hold list now!) He played an alien who comes to earth in order to save his drought stricken home planet. He was already so otherworldly that he slipped into the role with profound elegance and grace. In the award winning Merry Christmas, Mr. Lawrence he portrayed a prisoner in a WWII Japanese POW camp. He was the Goblin King in the fantasy Labyrinth and the suave vampire in 1983’s The Hunger co- starring Catherine Deneuve and Susan Sarandon. He played Andy Warhol in Basquiat – a role made all the more apropos since “Andy Warhol” is a great track on his 1971 Hunky Dory album.
In the onslaught of Bowie postings on social media this morning I came across a list of his favorite 100 books. I was happy to see we had some in common. A prolific artist who shared his art with us till the end. I think Dean Podesta’s tweet sums it up best – “If you’re ever sad, just remember the world is 4.543 billion years old and you somehow managed to exist at the same time as David Bowie.”