An Alternative God

On Monday morning I woke up and checked my phone. There was a text that a friend on the West Coast had sent in the middle of the night. It said, “David Bowie died about an hour ago. My heart just sank.”

I felt ill for a moment and then I said No, girlfriend. No way. You are mistaken. This is an internet hoax.

But when I opened Facebook it was everywhere. When I walked downstairs the first words I said to John were, “I got a text that David Bowie died.” He said “No way.” I told him it was all over Facebook. He said he hadn’t yet heard it on the news.

We sat and stared at the TV screen. And then there it was on the ticker, and then they were talking about it. It was true. He had died. And our hearts sank.

How could there be a world without Bowie? He had always been there for us! Even before we were born, he was there, just waiting for us to discover him, waiting to be the force that propelled us or pulled us.

Bowie was the soundtrack of the 70s in the back seat of my mom’s car.“Fame, what you get is no tomorrow”.

Bowie was the largest button on the lapel of my high school blazer, the button that brought me to my tribe. “I’m standing in the wind, but I never wave bye-bye”

Bowie was in heavy rotation on my radio show in college. “If our love song, could fly over mountains, could sail over heartaches, just like the films”

Bowie was 45 minutes of the 90-minute mix tape that made me fall in love with Johnny. “Something kind of hit me today, I looked at you and wondered if you saw things my way?”

Bowie was revisited, revised, and reshaped over and over with each song we introduced to our children. “I watch the ripples change their size, but never leave the stream of warm impermanence”.

As a photo montage of his life flashed across the screen and the newscaster talked about his career the tears welled up in my eyes. They have been there ever since. Ready to pour out at the slightest provocation. Every article I read, every song I hear. And I’ve heard lots of songs.

I played Bowie songs all day Monday. And I cried. On Tuesday, rather than torture myself all day, I decided to listen to alternative radio. Every single song I heard had some sort of David Bowie influence. Were they doing it on purpose? Were they only playing songs that sounded Bowie-ish?  No. Every alternative song in the world sounds somehow Bowie-ish all of a sudden, because through the years he experimented with every sort of alternative music he could. Without his influence the world of music would have an entirely different sound, and an entirely different face. He was the father of all music to follow, an alternative god.

Today is Wednesday.  I’ve only listened to a couple of songs today. Only read a couple of articles. But tonight, we are holding a wake of sorts. On this, the third day, His music will rise up from our basement. John will broadcast live, along with his brother and a friend since pre-school. They will spin Bowie records, reminisce and maybe even shed a few tears. You can listen in and chat right here. I will sit up in the kitchen and drink beer, and cry.

I don’t know when His music will stop making me cry? I don’t know how long it will take to mourn this loss?  “As long as it takes”, my friend Lori said.

It will take time, because for many of us, he was a part of our lives before we were even born. If we were lucky enough to have cool parents, we were exposed to his music at a very young age.

It will take time, because he was the father of all alternative music, and  “because he was the father of all of us freaks”, as my friend Cyndi said. He was the father of all of the alternative kids, the artsy kids, the weirdos, the gay and confused kids, the drama queens, the ones that just didn’t fit in and didn’t want to, the alt-punk-goth-new-wave-rock-soul kids.

It will take time, because even though we are mourning only one man, we are also mourning the death of our old friends who saw us through tough times; Major Tom, Ziggy Stardust, Aladdin Sane, The Thin White Duke.

It will take time because everything he did was art. His music. His style. His films. His entire life was a work of art. And in grand style, even his death was a work of art.

And so we mourn him. For as long as it takes. The man, the musician, the artist, the father of the freaks.

Our Father, who art…



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