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The stars look very different today: a reflection on discovering David Bowie

11 Jan 2016

Ripples of loss are being felt across generations today, last night we lost a marvel. Silently, we all acknowledge that our lives had been touched by a little bit of magic, moved in some way. When I look back on the fondest memories of my short life they all have one thing in common, the sound of David Bowie coming through the airwaves. When I was in primary school and refused to do my homework my mum played me Kooks, waiting eagerly for the line ‘and if the homework brings you down then we’ll put it on the fire and take the car downtown,’ which she then preceded to sing to me with a glint in her eye. From that moment on I had a friend in this distant wondrous man who seemed to understand me, at least more than my teachers did.

At twenty-one I am a generation behind those who were first moved by Bowie. For them, no one had ever seen a performer quite like him. And still it is an indication of his force that today there is no age restriction on those in mourning. First leaving for university three years ago was the moment that Bowie really came through for me. Sitting on my front doorstep in the morning winter light, looking out on a foreign campus filled with strangers, I would listen to the Rise and Fall of Ziggy Stardust on repeat. As a voice called down my radio, ‘oh no love, you’re not alone,’ my mum’s CD provided a lifeline back to her and to home. The nature of his music is unlike any I’ve felt before; the instant ability to transport you back to another time or place.

Our lifetime may not have experienced the culmination of Bowie and yet in the 2013 exhibition ‘David Bowie is…’ we were able to see it all for ourselves. The first time I saw the show in London, the final room with huge LCD screens of his concerts brought me to tears. I had never seen anything like it; Bowie alongside Bowie, serenading a room of onlookers. An exhibition space had been transformed. People sat and stared up in awe, lay on the floor, or danced around singing every word. A concert had been situated in the walls of the V&A, and it forever changed the way we will experience a gallery space. I had the pleasure of seeing the show once more in Berlin. I spent 4 hours going round at a considered pace, carefully absorbing everything. Again, it was that final room that held us all the longest, to be in front of the man himself, the innovator who even in 2014 continued to set the trend for the rest of the world to follow. Upon leaving the exhibition everyone finally looked at their phones and were met with strings of missed calls from friends. We could all only apologise, we’d been lost in the world of Bowie.

Today as the radio blares out song after song, our timelines are filled with photos and videos, we can truly observe just how many people Bowie affected. In absence he unites us once more, and that really is an indication of his own breed of modern love.