Fallen rockstar

By: Kristin Helf, Columnist

The night after David Bowie died, I sat in my minimester class lamenting with my desk-mates the death of a musical luminary. My professor played “Under Pressure” and “Changes” over the computer speakers after one student claimed she’d never heard any of his songs before.

Everyone else in the classroom seemed thoroughly shocked by Bowie’s sudden death from cancer on Jan. 10. My professor said that “Ziggy Stardust and the Spiders from Mars” was one of the best albums of all time (agreed, dude). Students briefly interrupted class to talk about where we, a small group of 20-something millennials, had first heard of the musician/artist/fashion icon who some might say had reached the height of his career in the 1970s, decades before any of us were even born.

One girl in the room said that both she and her mom are into 80s music (the decade that ushered in famous Bowie albums like “Scary Monsters (And Super Creeps)” and “Let’s Dance”), and when they heard the news of his death, one called another on the phone and they sang the song “Fame” together.

Someone else remarked that an entire generation of Bowie fans had been introduced by the movie “Labyrinth”—and even though that came out in 1986, many of us grew up with the Jim Henson fantasy nevertheless.

I held myself together in class that night, but just the day before I cried as I drove to Towson while doing the worst thing you can do for your emotions when someone you love passes—which is, of course, listening to your favorite albums of theirs.

And how could we fans have been so stupid? Earlier this month, David Bowie’s 25th and final studio album, “Blackstar,” was released along with the music video for the song “Lazarus.”

In the song, he’s lying in a hospital bed and his eyes wrapped in bandages as he literally sings, “Look up here, I’m in heaven.” Only Bowie himself and his loved ones were aware of his cancer diagnosis—to everyone else, the hospital garb and fatalistic lyrics were just props to another character akin to Aladdin Sane or the Thin White Duke.

While I may never get over the fact that the last of my artistic heroes has passed on, now jamming out in heaven with Elvis and Lou Reed, that Monday night class eased my mourning heart.

David Bowie doesn’t just mean a lot to me, he means a lot to everyone. With the strides he made in music, art, fashion and film during his lifetime, Bowie will continue to inspire artists for generations until all of humankind is obliterated by aliens resembling Ziggy Stardust himself.

A few years ago, musician Gerard Way tweeted, “When an artist passes away, I like to think that they return to the cosmic dust and become part of the place where ideas come from.”

To anyone who’s still feeling emotional distress over David Bowie’s death, listen to his song “Starman,” think of how Bowie might have descended to Earth back in the 40’s and of his imminent resurrection that I can only hope will someday occur; “look out your window, I can see his light.”

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