I discovered David Bowie in my dad’s record collection in 1982 when I was 12 years old. I was mesmerized by Ziggy Stardust and listened to that record incessantly. In my daily life I was trying hard to suppress overwhelming feelings but when I heard those songs, I could cry and lament because it wasn’t me – it was the music. It allowed me to express feelings that scared me in a way that felt safe.
David Bowie belonged to me. He was a good secret, not like the big, scary secrets that I was carrying. I introduced him to friends and was pleased when they didn’t love him as much as I did. Loving David Bowie made me feel special and unique. I felt cool and like I knew something that no one else did.
Then, Let’s Dance came out and he belonged to the whole world. Suddenly everyone loved him but I made sure people knew that I was the original fan. I knew him before. I loved him before. My David Bowie mania increased because I had so much to prove. It never occurred to me that countless people before me felt the exact same way. After all, I discovered him in my dad’s record collection.
His music was my form of emotional expression throughout my teen years. Everything that I couldn’t allow myself to name was in his lyrics. Every feeling that was dangerous was softened by his songs. It was so much more than teenage angst. It was like the horrible burdensome pain that I was carrying on the inside could finally be expressed on the outside by singing Heroes at the top of my lungs. Eventually, it was even ok that my friends loved him too. We all needed him.
I know he wasn’t thinking about a teenage girl in Tucson when he wrote his songs (a girl can hope right?) but his music saved me. I didn’t have the tools and coping skills to survive without the release of emotion that his music allowed me.
When I heard about his death this morning, I was momentarily transformed back into that 12 year old little girl and all the feelings, secrets and confusion that his music helped me express came rushing back. It’s an odd grief when we mourn a public figure that we never met and who never really belonged to us. But when David Bowie created, he put energy out into the world and let go of the outcome and we, in turn, took what he gave and transformed it into our experiences. It’s that sharing of energy that has the power to transform us. We belong to each other, David Bowie.
For Rutabaga. ❤