Daniel and I end most evenings sitting in our cozy little pub, which Daniel converted from an enclosed porch shortly before I moved in. We chat over the events of the day, whilst sipping on a glass of wine and puffing on our ecigs. This is also a great time to listen to music, and just relax before heading to bed. On Saturday, the ninth of January, I was reading through facebook and saw that David Bowie’s new album was being released that day, his 69th birthday. What a wonderful present from the birthday boy. It wasn’t the first time, either; his previous album, “The Next Day” was also released on the ninth of January, 2013. We’re both huge Bowie fans, so I found the album on Spotify and we gave it a listen. It was jazzy, weird, experimental, and kind of cool. We ended that evening listening to my David Bowie “Hunky Dory” playlist. It has a lot of songs on it, not just from the brilliant Hunky Dory album. It’s my thing to give all my Spotify playlists clever sounding names.
It turned out that we were listening to Bowie’s last album, as countless other fans no doubt were, on his birthday, which turned out to be the day before his last day on earth. I can’t think of anything more poetic, more elegant, more quintessentially Bowie, than to go like that.
As a life long fan, however, the news of his death came as a complete shock. It was Monday morning and I hadn’t slept very well the night before. This was the first day back to work after Christmas break, and my mind was full of planning and details. I left for work extra early and arrived at the office about 7:30 in the morning. At 7:59 Daniel sent me a link on Facebook messenger to a story on the Hollywood Reporter website, which reported that David Bowie had died the day before. My first reaction was (and I quote), “NOOOOOOOO!!!!!!” But then we thought, wait a minute, this has to be a hoax. So I quickly googled for any David Bowie death hoax pages and immediately found one that said reports of his death were fake, and his Twitter and Facebook accounts had been hacked by some cruel troll. Well, that was a relief. I started my first lesson of the day reassured that David Bowie was alive and well, just as the page that reported the hoax said he was.
Of course, the cruelest irony of all was that the reports of his death were in fact true, and that the death hoax page was itself a hoax. Over the next hour more and more reports of his death started appearing on other sites, Daily Mail, Buzzfeed, Gawker, the BBC. And then we knew the unthinkable had just happened. And the idea that David Bowie was dead was indeed incomprehensible. I actually wrote, “I can’t even think about it right now. It’s just too horrible.”
“Same here,” wrote Daniel.
I went through my day, reconnected with students and colleagues, answered questions about how I spent Christmas break, taught my lessons and planned more lessons, generally kept busy. But at one point I went to the staff lounge and sat on the couch. No one ever sits in there so it’s a great place to get some peace and quiet. For the first time, my mind was quiet enough to fully understand what had just happened. David Bowie was dead. How could he be dead? That doesn’t even make sense. No one knew that he was sick, that he had been battling liver cancer for eighteen months. I was sitting alone in the empty teacher’s lounge, and I could feel the tears running down my face. I still could not accept it. My mind would not process it. I quickly composed myself and went to join students and colleagues for lunch. But it was in the back of my mind all day, “David Bowie is dead.”
When I got home from work, Daniel and I talked for hours about how surreal it was that David Bowie was dead. He had also broken down and cried that day. We ended that evening that same as we did on his birthday, listening to Bowie’s music.
It’s now Wednesday, my day off. I knew I was going to write all this down, and I’ve finally had time to sit down and do it. Earlier today I watched a video of Rick Wakeman performing “Life on Mars,” on piano, as a tribute to Bowie. That’s when I broke down and really cried. It finally sunk in that David Bowie was dead, and how incredibly sad and tragic that is.
The Man to Fell to Earth has had his last day on earth. He’s really gone. It’s so painful just to write these words down. David Bowie was a brilliant musician, a true artist in every sense of the word. The world feels plain and dull without David Bowie in it, so empty, and a hell of a lot less weird.