Bowie’s an artist who has been a key part of the soundtrack to my life in the last decade. I’d liked him before then, but in those ten years I’ve gone from listening to him once every few months to almost every day. It’s no exaggeration to say that I’ve listened to my favourite Bowie songs a hundred times in the last few months. I’d like to thank Chris O’Leary (aka. BowieSongs) for my exponentially growing fandom. (I discovered the blog via his guest post to Phil Sandifer’s Tardis Eruditorum – a blog that I’ve long since stopped following, incidentally, but I was lucky enough that my time reading it aligned with his post.) I genuinely don’t know whether I’d be half the fan without O’Leary’s insights.
And as he’s become a growing part of my life, so he’s become part of my daughter’s. She’s almost four now. She has laughed at and danced to Labyrinth for literally half of her life. Christmas just gone, her wonderfully craft-y aunt made her a bespoke Aladdin Sane t-shirt. She can recognise deep cuts from Bowie’s early ’70s back catalogue by an opening riff. I have videos of her playing piano along to Hunky Dory tracks at about fifteen months old. Even her favourite toys have their preferred tracks – when ‘John, I’m Only Dancing’ comes on, she’ll come barrelling down the halfway with Noodles the cat.
When news broke, we told her. We had to, we owed it to her. “Why?,” was the first question, quickly followed by “how”. With those out of the way, the irrecoverable nature of the moment hit her.
“Will his songs still be there?,” she asked. She looked shocked. Yes, honey, his songs will still be there. We can listen to them whenever we want to. She was comforted by that.
The tears didn’t come until later, when she asked if she could take her (as yet unborn, only 8 months cooked) baby brother could come with her to David Bowie Is, which she’d been to a few months before, to sit entranced by ‘Starman’. We explained it wasn’t there anymore. “Because he died?,” she asked, tears streaming. No, because it’d moved on, to another city. “Then I can take him when it comes back. I can show him then.”
Bowie isn’t here right now, for her. But a component of what she knows him as is still Out There, travelling, a spectacle whirling around the world on unseen tracks. A glam comet on a mysterious trajectory.
Her brother will grow up in a post-Bowie world. But he’ll have a big sister who’ll be there to tell him who Bowie is – not was, is – and why that matters.