A year and some change ago, I went on an ill-advised trip to San Francisco. It was my first time in the city and I was lucky I had my friend Kirstie to show me around. Anyway, one of my fondest memories of the trip was standing on Pier 39 of Fisherman’s Warf, watching the seals on a chilly day as the overhead speakers played Janelle Monae’s cover of David Bowie’s ‘Heroes.’
David Bowie died last week. And that memory was one of the first things I thought of.
That’s not to say I don’t have my own memories of Bowie strictly. Ziggy Stardust and the Spiders from Mars is one of my very favorite albums and I have a vinyl copy “on loan” from my best friend’s dad. I spent a lot of time grooving out to ‘Let’s Dance’ as well. I cried viciously when DaveFM played ‘Space Oddity’ after the death of Sally Ride. My mom even got me a giant book from the Bowie costume exhibit filled with glossy pictures of his many outfits over the years.
The problem is is that there are gaps in my Bowie knowledge. I don’t really know a lot of his later era stuff, though I have listened to Blackstar, which reminds me a lot of St. Vincent mixed with Yoko Kanno’s work on Cowboy Bebop personally.
Still, the news of his death felt like a kick to the chest. Perhaps because he did feel like a universal constant. An actual alien sent from Parts Unknown. A lot of it though was realizing how much David Bowie has influenced so much of everything I love. I can’t listen to ‘Five Years’ without fitting in words from ‘The End.’ by My Chemical Romance and vice versa. The scene in Inglourious Basterds where it felt like David Bowie was singing ‘Cat People’ just for Shosanna as she prepared for her last night on Earth. Luci from The Wicked + The Divine. That part in ‘Cigarette Lighter Love Song’ by Marvelous 3 where it turns into ‘All The Young Dudes.’ That ‘Heroes’ cover I mentioned earlier, though I’m certain there’s some DNA of Ziggy Stardust in Cindi Mayweather as well. Hell, there’s definitely some Ziggy Stardust in Stardust.
I’m not the first person to talk about this. Kieron Gillen talked about it at length on the FiveThirtyEight. It’s just that it feels like Michael Jackson’s death in a way. One that weaves an intricate web of influence and art. However, this one feels closer. Maybe because I was more familiar with Bowie than I was with Jackson. Maybe because I’m more engrained in pop culture now, seeing how his influence spread even beyond music. Along with being an artist in his own right, he was a modern muse.
Whatever it is, the man may be gone, but muses and ideas? They never truly go. Ziggy’s with the Starman now, but there’s still so much he left behind…