I was in eleventh grade the year my sister made me the David Bowie mix tape. This was the older sister, the cool one, and she did a spectacular job. Meticulous. Going in chronological order, even, and including the dubbed copy of “The Laughing Gnome” that skipped horribly and often. I played that tape about to death, to the irritation of more than a few people who have been around for it. I’d just keep flipping it, going through his career on repeat.
Unlike most of my generation, I didn’t see Labyrinth in the theatre; it came out after my dad died, so we didn’t have a lot of money for movies. But I, like most of my generation, have seen it probably dozens of times by now. He has twenty-one film acting credits on IMDb, and I’ve seen seven of those. Honestly, there are several of the others that don’t interest me even a little; that’ll happen.
Maybe it’s just me, but I didn’t even know he was sick. The official information is “eighteen-month battle with cancer,” but this is the first I’d known, tonight, when I logged onto Facebook and found, as happens these days, that he’d died. That’s how we learn of loss now.
What interests me is that the grief is so shared. One of the people who has already posted, less than an hour after the news was first released, is Alton Brown. Okay, so Good Eats has always been a pop culture-heavy show. This is true. But his post was a quote written on a Post-It, and to me, that kind of reads as “I don’t have words.” Of course, I posted from “The Man Who Sold the World,” and then went to write this. But the quote came first.
Even before he was an actor, he was acting, if that makes sense. Bowie brought showmanship to music in a way that few have ever approached. I saw him in concert in 1995, and it struck me at the time that he was basically feeding on the energy of the crowd. It was interesting; Trent Reznor, who shared the stage with him for part of the evening, didn’t seem to notice we were there and seemed just as content to be in his basement. Bowie needed us.
We will never be the same. He was never the same twice.