Black is not a color of mourning this time. White is.

The White Duke, Ziggy Stardust, the Goblin King. David Robert Jones went by many names, the most famous of which is David Bowie.
As I was growing up and dealing with Adults asking me “what I wanted to be when I grew up” I would usually rattle off something like ‘I want to be David Bowie’ or ‘I want to be Freddie’ and scamper off while they scratched their heads and wondered what a 13 year old meant when she said she wanted to grow up to be the White Duke or the front man of Queen. I thought I was being clever by not saying, “I want to be like” but “I want to be”.

By that I meant I wanted to be someone who was cool, who other people looked up to, someone who was a little odd for all the right reasons but was looked up to by the misfits. I was trying to find my place as I entered adolescence. My music taste didn’t fit my peers. Middle school was scathing and cruel. It’s supposed to be. I was listening to bands that my parents listened to and didn’t know the qualifications of a “Parental Advisory” label until I was fifteen because my parents never really censored anything. I didn’t know a word could have negative and unsavory meaning until I had a very interesting conversation that some words are “explicit” and “not allowed on the radio”. To this day, in the right company, school zones call for rolled down windows, even if it’s freezing, just to blast the Beastie Boys.

Space Oddity was one of the first albums I ever bought. For a whole three dollars, used, at a record store in my hometown. The same disc is now playing through JBL speakers purchased in 1987. The same year David Bowie released Never Let Me Down on EMI America at the young age of 40. I’m willing to bet I actually have a couple copies of the album I’ve left littered around the various places I’ve been.

David Bowie’s twenty-fifth studio album Blackstar was released on Friday. It was David Bowie’s 69th birthday. I listened to it as 9pm West Coast time when I first noticed it was available in full online. At first I didn’t like it. It wasn’t anything like the David Bowie sound I knew and loved, but that was exactly the same reason I fell in love with it by the end. It was the same kind of unique and odd I admired and aspire to be.

 

My mom saw David Bowie when she was with high school with her mom. If I remember correctly it was the Glass Spiders Tour. I never knew my maternal grandmother. I occasionally received the compliment: “She’d be proud of you.” But I had very little context. My mom wore red Converse High-tops. It may be a combination of her prom story coming to light, but it makes a good story. I remember the first time I had heard the story I was incredibly envious and jealous. My mom was cool in high school and I had been told parents weren’t supposed to be cool. The again, I was just finding my footing in the bigger world and was inching my way further and further into what I would later find out was a genuinely good taste in music (thanks, mom). I can’t stand the Top 40 Billboard crap. I couldn’t in middle school. I can’t now. And I hope I deter the next generation away from it if I get the choice.

When I was in high school, I remember incorporating ‘spiders from Mars’ into a short story I had to write for a creative writing class. My senior year in high school, when I was running the venue, I remember being asked if I had any favorite songs I wanted to see covered. I would always think of whatever Bowie song I was leaning towards at the moment and remember a great cover of Rebel, Rebel. My senior year I finally got around to watching Labryinth and it was the same quirkiness I came to expect.

Aladdin Sane has always been one of my favorite art pieces -ever-. Not just album art. Not just Bowie’s genius. He was a living, breathing art piece and that came through in everything he did.

For Christmas this year, one of my best friends drew a portrait with the Aladdin Sane lightning bolt on it because of how much I love Bowie. He doesn’t know yet that one of my heroes is gone, and won’t for a couple hours. He also sent me a photo a couple nights ago of a fluffy white kitten with the Aladdin Sane icon. I thought it was falling short of “David Meowie”.

I have a print by a local Portland artist on the wall in my dorm loosely based on the Ziggy Stardust alter ego Bowie had. The print captures some of my favorite elements of the White Duke- he was vibrant and full of life and always stood out. I recently saw a website completely dedicated to what David Bowie was doing at your age. At twenty, he had just released his self-titled first album. The year was 1967 and neither of my parents had been born yet. The year I was born ushered in his nineteenth studio album, Outside. I was born nine days before its release. None of this is relevant, but I’m caught up in how much of history can be put on the timeline of The White Duke’s discography- almost a half century of releasing music, averaging a new studio release every two year. If I could live to be 69 and live a quarter of the life he did, I would be content.

In 2010, Peter Gabriel released Scratch My Back, which was a twelve-track studio album of orchestral backed covers of Gabriel’s choosing. I always enjoyed his arrangement of Heroes. I hope radio stations across the world do him justice and play his music throughout the day. Oh, and Facebook, I’m waiting for a David Bowie inspired filter I can add to my profile pic. It’s okay. I’ll wait. And I’ll do it myself before the day’s done if I have to.

Heaven just got a lot more glam. And I hope he and Freddie are singing duets.

 

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