And it sucks.
I had hoped that my first post of 2016 would be relating the story of how I had sold my shapeshifting superspy novel to a big publisher over the holiday break. I certainly didn’t expect to be mourning the loss of a personal hero.
On January 10, 2016, David Robert Jones aka David Bowie, passed away from liver cancer. There have been a rash of celebrity deaths lately and while they don’t usually affect me, this time was different. You see, David Bowie has been with me most of my life.
I first became aware of him when I was three and heard the album of Peter and the Wolf that RCA put out. If you didn’t know, he was the narrator telling the story in that soothing, smooth as silk voice of his that naturally lent itself to storytelling to wide-eyed children. I listened to it over and over, fascinated by the story of Peter and his forest friends outsmarting the wolf. I was also falling in love with music– becoming aware that music itself was the storyteller. That you didn’t need words.
As I got older, I was blessed with older sisters that were also music lovers. They were bent on completely warping me as much as possible. Fortunately, they were Bowie fans that never missed an album. By osmosis, I grew to be a fan loving songs like “Let’s Dance,” “Never Let Me Down,” and “China Girl.” By age seven I was making my own compilation tapes from the radio and staying up late to catch the video for “Blue Jean” on Friday Night Videos. The first time I saw that video, I thought he was the most beautiful thing I’d ever seen.
In 1986, I was nine years old and at the age when most girls are prepubescent and just starting to realize that there is a difference between boys and girls. And that perhaps they aren’t the ideal romantic heroine. The romanticism of being in love is just starting to occur. I suppose it wasn’t a surprise. I was obsessed with fairy tales. And what better fairy tale is there than Labyrinth? The story of a misunderstood, awkward girl who still plays pretend long after it’s appropriate. Who makes up stories to escape from feeling unloved and unattractive. Who feels herself growing up and losing her innocence and desperately wants to hang on to it. And then when it seems that all hope is lost, a powerful savior arrives to save her from being a grownup. He loves her because of her strangeness and isn’t going to require that she change. For the first time, she’s the cool one that someone is willing to reorder time and space to be with. Her, the awkward innocent that only wants someone to love her best. By the end she realizes that she had that all along and that she doesn’t need a savior. Especially not one who wants to keep her as a possession. She is in control of her destiny. “You have no power over me.”
Even now when I’m feeling awkward and unloved, I watch Labyrinth or listen to the soundtrack and wish for the Goblin King to take me away (right now!). And I think that’s what’s hurting the most today. That no matter how much I wish, The Goblin King isn’t there to take me away anymore. And there will never be one to take his place.
RIP Mr. Jones. You served us all so well and your voice will echo throughout the centuries. Thank you for making the world a little bit brighter. For being a friend in the dark. For molding an artist. And for making us all proud to be different.