Rest In Stardust: Remembering David Bowie

WORDS + VISUAL BY ELLIE CONNOR-PHILLIPS / @ELLIECP_

"…And jumped the silent cars that slept at traffic lights…"

I can picture it perfectly even now. Sitting in the passenger seat of my dad's car, the now all-too-familiar beat of "Panic In Detroit" playing out of the radio, reverberating in my chest like a heartbeat, and somehow reaching the core of my seven or eight year-old body. I listened to the lyrics intently, images flying to mind and creating an almost film-like sequence of the events I imagined were being sung about — a daydream I can still picture to this day.
   The sky outside was dark; the lights of the city dancing like fireflies as we drove. It felt like the start of something — the guitar riff was like a drug, the voice a hypnotic melody pulling me in. I felt as if we were driving forever.
   My dad had discovered David Bowie as a teenager in the early seventies, remaining a loyal fan of his work to the present day. He noticed my apparent interest in the song, proceeding to tell me all about its history, before spending the next few years recommending songs to me and playing his albums on long drives. ("Panic In Detroit" remains a firm favorite between us.) It wasn’t, however, until I was in my early to mid-teens that I really and truly fell in love with the man behind the music.

I was an uncomfortable teenager. I felt different, lonely, and struggled with eating and social anxiety. This is, of course, quite a regular period of time for modern teenagers it seems, but it was still difficult. I remember wishing I could find something to help me work out who I was. I found that something whilst on a family holiday to Italy, and in the form of "Rebel Rebel." 
   I love clothes, and that holiday in particular began to push my style even further, earning me a wonderful collection of confused stares as I wandered through the streets. I usually would have been embarrassed, but instead I felt successful. In my head, I was Bowie's "hot tramp" and "Calamity's child," floating my way through this foreign country, imagining I was Ziggy Stardust. I felt understood, and I felt as if there was new hope for me
   Through loving Bowie, I seemed to find a sense of self that I did not have before. He made me feel okay about not feeling confident. Describing himself as a "collector of personalities," he would pick up traits and features from people he admired, creating these characters and roles he would then play, just like an actor on a stage. 
   I treated these words almost as Holy orders, and at once began to sculpt for myself a character to play. I wore eccentric clothes, and my personality and confidence began to grow and fill the gap between my image and me, until they became one in the same as they are today. I am now as confident as the clashing patterns I wear, as bold as the reds and yellows that I am frequently found in, and I do owe that entirely to Bowie, who I felt nurtured me and taught me how to become the person I wished to be.

Over the next few years, David Bowie became everything to me. He was the first source of inspiration I would turn to for my art projects, for outfit inspiration, for advice — I watched a hell of a lot of interviews — and for support. His songs became the soundtrack to my life; the Young Americans album soothed me through the stress of my textiles coursework, "Big Brother" from the Diamond Dogs album propelled me through my final art exam, willing me on like an anthem and encouraging me to produce some of my best work to date. "Station to Station" and "Always Crashing In the Same Car" comforted me in times of doubt about my work or where I was going in life, while "Let's Dance" was a record that filled me with joy to which I danced on my sixteenth birthday. A personal favorite of mine is "Love You Till Tuesday" — a cheery, lighthearted song on his self-titled album from 1967. Listening to it now — coincidentally on a Tuesday — I realize that just like a short but passionate fling, Bowie dabbled in this world only for a brief period in the grand scheme of things, and just like the song's love affair that came to an end after three days, our time spent with him has had to come to an end also.

His music was like a presence, a force that surrounded me and was always there. I had never doubted this existence — the man had survived so much, and seemed utterly everlasting and immortal. 


It was, coincidentally, the man who introduced him to me that then took him away; my Dad was the one to break the news of his passing yesterday morning, which, thinking about it now, is a rather ironic cycle. I felt crushed, as I think the whole world was. Our parents grew up with his music, and through them, so did my generation — we had all relied on this figure at some point in our lives. To us, he was immortal, unchangeable — a permanent omnipresent force that would dance with us during our best moments, and weep with us during our worst. He was always there, in the way you imagine a guardian angel to be: invisible, often unseen, but definitely and undoubtedly there. Yesterday, it felt as if there was a gaping hole in the world where this presence should be.
   I didn't quite know how to process everything I felt yesterday. I went about the day's work as best I could, dressed up to the maximum in an attempt to thank him for what he gave me most: the confidence to be myself. My head was still reeling though — it had all happened so fast, and the constant playing of Bowie throughout the day on every music station, iPod, and in every house and shop, felt somewhat surreal. I woke up this morning with a heavy heart, and decided to watch the "Lazarus" music video, in the hope of understanding better what had happened.

I knew from the opening line that he'd known. "Look up here, I'm in heaven." his voice felt like a message, and I couldn't help but laugh through my tears as he somehow managed to comfort us on earth even from beyond the grave. He really did have a habit of surprising us. Each character he played, and each new album was like a new life — a phoenix rising out of the ashes. The way that Ziggy died on that night in Hammersmith in 1973, but returned in another form? I believe that David himself will do the same. 
   He himself might be elsewhere, as he is finally "Free…just like that bluebird." (I like to imagine him dancing and laughing at us from the next world, wherever that may be.) I am confident that his legacy is like a second life in itself. Like Lazarus, he will rise from the dead in the form of the people he has inspired. Through us, through the way we continue to do what he inspired us to, and become people we had only dreamed of being, he will live on indefinitely.
   I felt comforted listening to "Lazarus" this morning. He was okay. He was probably catching up with old friends and relaxing, free at last from the shackles of illness. He was free, and I didn't need to worry about him any more. I knew now that he had stayed true to his name of being 'ahead of his time,' telling us about his death weeks before we had any notion of it. 
   He sang from the heavens whilst still here on earth, giving the world one final parting gift that ties up the loose ends of his story, like a beautiful epilogue. Although sad, as your favorite novel may be over, you can rest easy knowing that there was a happy ending, and all your favorite characters are safe and sound — and happy. In this way, we can feel the same for Bowie; he is 'free' now.

Although we all feel sad, I think for me at least, the pervading emotion towards David will always be gratitude. I owe him everything that I am today — my confidence, clothing, career choice. He has given me the ability to make myself into the person I wish to be, and inspired me to work until I am living the exact life I want to. I feel incredibly lucky to have been so directly inspired by him, and to have had the opportunity to share the same planet for the last eighteen years. I also feel it is my duty (of sorts) to try and continue his legacy by pushing my limits and being the best I can be, and hopefully one day passing on the inspiration he gave me to others. 
   Looking out at the sky tonight, I'm going to remember David as I knew him best: a fun, excitable, and incredibly knowing man, who made music that supersedes time. Listen out for his voice, a laughing melody, singing: "Don't be afraid of the man in the moon, because it's only me!"

DAVID BOWIE PLAYLIST (CURATED BY ELLIE)

There is a Happy Land
Sweet Thing
Rock 'n Roll with Me
Big Brother
Kooks
Sound and Vision
Rock 'n Roll Suicide
God Knows I'm Good
Station to Station
Right
Where are we now
Lazarus
Dancing Out in Space
Love You Till Tuesday

3 comments:

  1. awwww ellie this is so sweet and heartfelt !!! <3

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  2. Love this! Nicely written! I think this article summarizes the sentiments of most Bowie fans, regarding his impact on the lives of many.

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