“Didn’t know what time it was and the lights were low,
I leaned back on my radio,
some cat was layin’ down some rock ‘n’ roll ‘lotta soul, he said.
Then the loud sound did seem to fade,
came back like a slow voice on a wave of phase,
that weren’t no D.J. that was hazy cosmic jive.
There’s a starman waiting in the sky,
he’d like to come and meet us,
but he thinks he’d blow our minds.
There’s a starman waiting in the sky,
he’s told us not to blow it,
’cause he knows it’s all worthwhile –
he told me,
let the children lose it,
let the children use it,
let all the children boogie.”
The first song I ever heard was Starman. I had read an article, an interview, with Nick Rhodes of Duran Duran and he mentioned the song. I was a young teenage girl carrying a heart full of teen-crush love for Nick, and Duran Duran, so I wanted to hear a song that meant so much to him. Music is ever that way of getting close to someone, to understanding them – a truth that has never wavered in my life.
Maybe I heard other songs before. I’m pretty sure that Modern Love and Let’s Dance were around then, and I remember seeing the China Girl video on MTV, and thinking Bowie was damn cute, but the music hadn’t gotten in yet. Not until Starman. Not until that afternoon when I went out to the record store looking for this song, and finding The Rise and Fall of Ziggy Stardust & the Spiders From Mars album in the process. I played Starman, over and over again, until I knew every word, until it was part of the blood in my veins. I played the rest of the album, too, falling hard for Ziggy, his Spiders from Mars, and all these sung stories.
Something opened up in me from that song, and that album. It was like my chest cracked and the music seeped into my heart, and into my soul. Music comes into our lives in so many different ways, and I believe that sometimes it comes to us when we need it the most. There were things that happened in my adolescent years that came close to breaking me, but music kept me going, kept me breathing, kept me believing. David Bowie was one of those buoys, one of those musical lifeboats, one of the angels that took my hand, and my heart, and said “c’mon, let’s go.”
I devoured every album I could get after that. Falling hard for Hunky Dory and Aladdin Sane, loving the hell out of Tonight, PinUps, Young Americans and Diamond Dogs. I fell in love with his vampire alter ego in The Hunger, danced around with his Goblin King, and found a strength and strange acceptance in his chameleon ways, in the way he kept changing, recreating, and in my mind, surviving.
The 70’s became a big thing to me in the late 80’s. I was a Hollywood transplant (or wanted to be), driving up from Orange County’s suburbia to dance at the underground clubs nearly every night of the week. Sundays were the best, though. Club 1970’s captured a kind of magic, casting a spell of music and misfits, of freedom and reinvention; I found myself in many ways on that dance floor, and Bowie’s music was always there waiting. I longed to go back in time to be part of the Glam Rock scene. I wanted to be Lady Stardust. I wanted to be there when “Ziggy played guitar“.
Those nights, those glorious Sunday nights, were close enough. They were as close as I was ever going to be.
Heroes would come and grab hold of me unexpectedly. The first time I heard it I was in the throes of falling in love for the first time. You never forget your first love, and you never forget the music that was a part of it. The song lasted longer, as songs always do, and it held my hand, and heart, through the highs and the lows. It was there for the bliss, and there for the heartbreak. And, because of that, or maybe in spite of that, the song remained my favorite.
It still is my favorite.
Though Starman will always hold a place in my heart. Always, always.
I don’t want to talk about him being gone. I don’t think I can. I try to articulate it and the tears fall.
David Bowie, the Starman, saved my life a few times. He sang to me and stayed with me through so many days and nights, loves and losses, and all the changes I’ve gone through (he knew something about changes, and I was so ready to learn). He has inspired my creative side, so much so that I’ve weaved him into many stories I’ve written. He’s part of my novel I’m writing, a beloved favorite of one of my main characters – Alexia. I thought this morning that she’s crying about this, too.
I know he didn’t belong to me. I know his music was special and important to so many people in this world. I know his influence, his style, his fluidity, his reinvention, his songwriting, his way of living, touched millions. But right now, today, I’m mourning the loss of something that felt like just mine. So, I’m gonna be a little bit selfish in it. I’m going to wave my musical flag at half mast, and play all the songs, and cry. Because I feel like I lost something today. Though I also feel like I gained something, too.
Ever since that day in my bedroom, holding Ziggy Stardust in my hand, listening to Starman on repeat.
Thank you, David Bowie. For the music, and for so much more.
Starman :: David Bowie