I used to be ever so slightly fearful of David Bowie. The outlandish outfits that made even my hero Freddie Mercury look tame, the unique Anglo-drawl that sounded in turns like an agitated hum or a despairing cherub; and those eyes – they were otherworldly. And when you pair that with songs like “Space Oddity,” “Starman” and, well, the whole Ziggy Stardust thing, you start to get a little suspicious if you’re a seven-year old glued to VH1. He seemed to know an awful lot about it.
But of course, “fear” – which I’m using here to mean an eerie fascination rather than genuine horror – eventually subsides, and instead I was looking on at this fascinating, terrifying human. It seemed almost impossible to find the man behind the guises: David Jones as impenetrable as his vast, illustrious oeuvre. His commitment to the “mask” was, of course, indispensable to his reputation as a master of reinvention, but was also probably what saved him; why one of the wildest and most inaccessible rockstars the world has seen was – by all accounts – a modest, friendly man and never anything less than a consummate father. Perhaps the most cited reason for artistic depression and self-destruction is an inability to marry the invincible, ethereal persona with the vulnerable human that lives with it. Bowie packed his persona away with the guitars and whatever staggering, mind-boggling garb he was wearing that evening.
And now, David Bowie is dead, and the world mourns, perhaps more so than many thought they would: for he is not a Jim Morrison or a Robert Johnson; destructive geniuses who displayed themselves, and then burned away in that oft-romanticised blaze of glory; their stories told, their eras defined. David Bowie was the man who adapted, shifted and grew. David Bowie was supposed to live, and forever build the bridge for us to cross to the other, more exciting half of the world.
We were blessed with nearly thirty albums, spanning just shy of half a century, but it’s for the future that we mourn.