Monday morning I was home, and had somehow avoided watching or listening to the news or going online to check my social media news feeds. When I finally logged in around noon, the first thing I saw was a sad post in my Facebook feed, mourning the loss of David Bowie (born David Robert Jones).
Surely this must be a hoax, I told myself.
Sadly it was not. Over the course of the day, the main thing that struck me was how many people (from completely different walks of life) where in mourning or disbelief over his passing. It takes a cultural icon of a very unique and special stature to garner this sort of grieving from so many different people around the world.
You too have probably engaged with Bowie’s music or art at some point in your life. Today the Eleventh Stack bloggers would like to share their own favorite David Bowie songs or memories, and we encourage you to share as well in the comments section. Farewell, Mr. Bowie — the world is made a little less interesting by your passing.
It’s nearly impossible to choose just a couple of favorites from Bowie’s vast catalog of amazing music, but if I must, these are my current choices. Ask me next week and I may choose different titles.
“Golden Years” (Station to Station, 1976) – This is one of my husband’s favorites, too. It’s hard for me not to play air guitar or otherwise jam to this song. I love the refrain: “I’ll stick with you baby for a thousand years. Nothing’s gonna touch you in these golden years.”
“Modern Love” (Let’s Dance, 1983) – Although the backup singers annoy me slightly, I still adore this song. I had no idea what I was listening to the first time I heard it on the radio, and I kind of hated it and kind of couldn’t get enough of it. It just got into my head, and the more times I heard it, the more I loved it.
My favorite Bowie pop culture moment is when he turned out to be the shape-shifting leader of the Guild of Calamitous Intent on Venture Brothers. I don’t care that he didn’t actually do the voice. It was too awesome for words.
We had a white cat growing up with two different colored eyes that my aunt named Bowie (aka The Thin White Duke). I thought it was such a lame name for a cat. The only thing i really knew about Bowie at the time was that he was the dude wearing tights in Labyrinth that gave me strange and uncomfortable feelings.
Fast forward ten or so years, and Bowie’s music would become an essential part of the soundtrack to the rest of my life. I love so many of his albums, but hold a special candle for Hunky Dory, since it was the first record of his I bought on vinyl as a burgeoning wannabe music nerd.
Special mention should probably go to his 1977 album Low, which I still find haunting and beautiful to this day.
[A tip: the library owns many David Bowie albums on CD, but most of them have a wait list at the moment. However, our streaming service Hoopla has many, many Bowie albums that you can check out right now. If you’ve never used Hoopla and would like some help we’re always happy to lend a hand.]
It was one of the most glorious Rock Star moments of my life.
My friend Sheryl organized a Glam Rock Cabaret at the Rex Theater in 2004. Many bands and acts specially put together for the event would play a few songs each. I got to play the drums in Sheryl’s band, which would wrap up the night. Our grand finale was the song “All the Young Dudes” written by David Bowie in 1972 for the band Mott the Hoople. My job was to keep the song going until the crowd was worked up to the appropriate amount of frenzy.
- All the young dudes (Hey, dudes!)
- Carry the news (Where are you?)
- Boogaloo dudes (Stand up, come on!)
- Carry the news
(Audience member’s hands are waving in the air. Other bands are joining us on stage. Keep it going…)
- All the young dudes (Hey, you there, with the glasses!)
- Carry the news (I want you!)
- Boogaloo dudes (I want you at the front!)
- Carry the news (Now you, all his friends!)
(I control the hearts of every person in the room.)
- All the young dudes (I’ve wanted to do this for years!)
- Carry the news (There you go!)
- Boogaloo dudes (How do you feel?)
- Carry the news
Four or so more times…
(I make eye contact with the bass and guitar players. It’s time to wrap it up. I start slowing down and building up at the same time.)
Big finish. People turning and smiling my way. Yeah, I rule.
I was around sixteen, angsty and confused about life, when I discovered David Bowie. Everything changed. Suddenly I had access to someone who was singing about the issues I was dealing with. I started humming “Changes” (Hunky Dory, 1972) to myself almost constantly. That song got me through more than one tough teenage transition. More than just the music, though, the person and the many personas transfixed me. I picked up biographies from used book sales, CDs from dying CD stores (Sam Goody, anyone?), and way too many ideas about fashion that drove my mother crazy.
Although it’s quite silly, I love Bowie’s cameo in Zoolander. When Ben Stiller’s character challenges Owen Wilson’s character to a walk off, they need a judge, and Bowie appears from almost nowhere, whips off his sunglasses, and says, “I think I can be of service.” Then the screen freezes and his name flies into the frame—as if we didn’t know who he was.
Christmastime 2010 was like another time for me. I was working a different job, living in a different neighborhood and was in a pretty bad relationship. Like living with a mouth full of fillings and the only having aluminum foil to eat.
Anyway, it was after 11 and I’d just gotten off work. The night was cold, not unlike the nights we’ve had this week, and I noticed my car was low on gas. Not wanting the fuel lines to freeze, I stopped at a gas station to fill the tank.
I pulled up next to the tank and for whatever reason, it all just hit me—the audacity of falling in love with a woman who’d lied to me since pretty much the day we’d met. I looked out at the slick roads and thought how easy it would be to let the ice take the car and be done with it all. Now I feel like an idiot for letting another person make me feel so low, but at the time, it was a palpable pressure.
I don’t want to sound overdramatically hyperbolic, but David Bowie’s music saved my life that night.
I’m sure everyone has had a moment when they felt that a song was speaking directly to them, and in that moment, it felt like “Under Pressure” had been jacked directly into my veins. Hearing Bowie singing about a love that’s slashed and torn stopped me dead, pulled my mind away from the roads and forced me to focus on the song. I felt a chill run through me, colder than the December air whipping at the windows. I admitted to myself that I was just going through the motions in a relationship I wasn’t happy with and I realized that no matter how badly this girl had messed me up, she certainly wasn’t worth dying for.
So I turned the radio up, wiped tears away that I didn’t realize I was crying, got out of the car and filled the tank. I wish I could tell you that afterward I drove home and broke up with this girl, but that wouldn’t happen for a while.
I’ve been thinking of that night a lot this week, as I’ve been endlessly replaying this song, imagining an afterlife where Bowie and Freddie Mercury are performing together again. Even though Bowie is gone, his music endures. I truly believe it will be there for others like it was for me when I was lost at the edge of the night under pressure.
David Bowie has always just been there for me. WDVE was the radio station of choice for my parents, so “Space Oddity” and “Under Pressure” were key elements of my early music vocabulary. Nirvana’s cover of “The Man Who Sold the World” accompanied me on the bus ride to school in seventh grade. The “Golden Years” dance scene in A Knight’s Tale made me tilt my head and then laugh at the absurdity. Diving into the full albums as an adult has been a lesson in art and love. Thank you, David, for making weird seem wonderful.
Two branches will be showing this classic tomorrow (January 16)!
-Team Eleventh Stack