There are a lot of articles and blog posts about my favorite artist of all time circling the internet this week and I wanted to throw my own post together because David Bowie has been a big part of my life. Like, since birth. I’m not even kidding. Birth.
You see, when I was born on July 16, 1983 at a naval hospital in Portsmouth, Virginia, my dad was in the US Navy, serving aboard the USS Nimitz. My mom was alone with me a lot (though there were always relatives around) and I hear there was a lot of music to keep her company. David Bowie’s records were always at the top of her stack from what I can remember. When my dad finally came home from service for good, there was still a lot of music. Obviously, his music became a bit of an influence on me, too (Kiss was his favorite band and probably still is, as far as I know), but the music I remember dancing to while standing on my mom’s feet was always Bowie. Always…because I screamed and begged for it. LET’S DANCE was the album I listened to more than anything else. Not even Jem and the Holograms could compete with David Bowie. Not even my super creepy Teddy Ruxpin stood a chance against David Bowie. Nothing did, nothing ever will.
When I was about four years old, my grandparents’ neighbors brought me over to their house to watch Labyrinth on VHS. Since our families had always been close (since forever lol) this was okay and I had a ball. And I fell in love with a fictional character for the very first time. Of course, I was only four years old and didn’t make the connection between my David Bowie and the Goblin King. I didn’t realize they were the same person until I was a few years older. My parents split soon after the first viewing of Labyrinth and when I met my step-mom for the very first time, she brought me a present to break the ice.
My very own VHS copy of Labyrinth. I’ve loved that woman ever since. Regardless of the nonchalance I show in this photo, I was thrilled. Beyond thrilled. I was so thrilled, in fact, that my new step-brother and I watched this VHS tape every morning while we ate bowls of cereal. I imagined what it would be like to disappear to the labyrinth and meet all of the strange creatures within. I sang along with every single song. I, to this day, know this movie, word for word, line by line, start to finish. At one point, I even fantasized about having a wedding with a Labyrinth theme (the ballroom scene was my target lol). That didn’t happen, but that’s a story for another day.
When I reached middle school, I began to realize that David Bowie had been around a little longer than I’d originally thought because my step-dad introduced me to The Man Who Sold the World, a song that was more rock and less pop, just his speed, and I, to this day, associate this song with my step-dad. Of course, by then, I had already followed the path of the elusive writer. I was already filling notebooks with stories and sketches and all manner of creative endeavors. Through this confusing period in my life (adolescence), I discovered all of Bowie’s earlier works and began having daydreams of space travel and aliens. I sometimes wonder if there are other writers (sci-fi writers and any others, too) who began writing this way. I imagine I’m not alone. David Bowie wore many faces.
I discovered myself listening to Starman and Space Oddity. As I ventured toward high school, my life was changing again. I moved to West Virginia from North Carolina and, once again, David Bowie was my solace and comfort. Moving to the hills was a culture shock for me. There were no punks, no goths, no rockers. But, there was suddenly me and I felt more alone than I ever have in my entire life up to that point. Nonetheless, Bowie was there to remind me that some stones are meant to roll differently (and in glitter, obviously). Rebel Rebel became my theme song and I still watched Labyrinth every single chance I got, only I’d bought a DVD copy by then. With the new bag of confidence I found with Bowie by my side, I made some friends and I was okay. I learned to paint, I kept writing, and I did well in school, too, all the while imagining it was just a temporary place to be and, eventually, the Goblin King was going to come and take me away. Or Ziggy Stardust–either one worked for me.
The older I got, the more his music resonated. Heroes was one of the songs I sang to my babies when they were fussy. I also sang Heroes to my godson when he was tiny and he enjoyed it, too. Life On Mars still helps me through depression and sadness because I love piano music and the piano, along with Bowie’s beautiful voice, is a powerful combination. I keep a book about David Bowie on my nightstand because I love to look at all of the many faces of David Bowie and I love to read about his life as David Jones, too.
David Bowie taught me many, many things about life, but more importantly, he taught me that it’s okay to be the oddball and go your own way. If I want to stand out, I can. If I want to stand out by being myself, even better. I am thirty-two years old right now, but every single time I hear David Bowie’s music and listen to his words, I’m still just a little kid dancing to a record with her mama and that’s a feeling I never want to let go of. Heroes is currently the ringtone I use for my husband’s calls to my cellphone and has been since September (which was when I joined the rest of modern society and bought my first cell phone) because Heroes is a song I equate with love and a feeling of happiness and contentment. And, I’m probably going to grab my copy of Labyrinth and pop it into the DVD player as a means to lull my night-owl self to sleep tonight. Or, maybe I’ll watch The Hunger instead.
Either way, I wish I could thank him for what he’s done for me and for the billions of other human oddities out there. Rest easy, Starman. You gave me the gift of myself, a gift that is irreplaceable. Goodbye, farewell, and travel safely, sir.
And the stars look very different today…