Ashes to Ashes

I’m not typically someone who is affected by celebrity deaths. After all, the passing of someone who I have most likely never met, and wouldn’t be aware of my existence isn’t really something I find worth dwelling on.

But there are two very big exceptions to that rule, and it surprised me that they hit me so hard. The first exception was Sir Terry Pratchett, whose death in March 2015 after a multi-year battle with Alzheimer’s disease. Pratchett was (indeed, still is) my favorite author and I’ve enjoyed the Discworld series of comic fantasy novels since a friend recommended The Colour of Magic (I was still living in England back then, so the title did have that extra ‘u’ in ‘Colour’) to me in 1993.

Now, twenty-three years later, there is one last entry in the series that I haven’t read. The forty-first Discworld novel, The Shepherd’s Crown awaits me. In some ways, I don’t want to read it because then it really will mean that there won’t be any more output from Pratchett to read. I think that’s why I decided to re-read the entire series again from scratch. If you follow me on Goodreads, you’ll see that I’ve gotten a good way through the series on this re-read. I’m both looking forward and not looking forward to the end of the series.

The other celebrity death that really affected me is that of David Bowie. As of this writing I’ve known that Bowie is no longer among the living for eighteen hours, and it still doesn’t quite have the sense of reality. When it comes to favorite things, my answers for favorite book, favorite song, favorite movie or favorite food vary depending on my moods, but s far as I can remember, I’ve always only ever had one answer to “Who is your favorite singer?” Bowie.

I’ not going to claim that I have some kind of ineffable, ephemeral connection to his music or that I associate seminal moments or compelling memories of my life with Bowie’s music. In fact, most of the seismic events in my personal life (two marriages, the birth of my son, moving to the US) and in the world in general (the death of Princess Diana, the 9/11 attack) are associated with quite banal music that has become elevated by association with those moments. It’s the only reason that I unabashedly enjoy Avril Lavigne’s Complicated (and I’m guessing this blog is the only place that song will ever be associated with David Bowie ever.)

Bowie’s music was different. It is different, it didn’t need personal associations to elevate it to greatness. It achieved that all on it’s own (with the possible exception of The Laughing Gnome) The omnipresence of the tributes to Bowie online show the sheer breadth of the man’s body of work. I’ve heard snippets and songs from just about every album from 1967’s David Bowie to last Friday’s Black Star and it’s impossible to narrow any of it down to choose a favorite song. Heck, it’s such a strong discography I don’t think I’ve heard two people pick the same Bowie album as their favorite. For the record, my pick is Lodger,  the last of the Berlin trilogy. But even that is subject to change.

And beyond the music, Bowie was a damned good actor. The range that can encompass the haunted Major Jack Celliers of Merry Christmas, Mr Lawrence to the gleeful malevolence of Jareth, the Goblin King in Labyrinth and so many roles in between shows that it was more than just the novelty take of a musician turned actor.

I’m also amazed that the internet, noted home of trolls, malingerers and assholes galore doesn’t seem to have a bad word to say about David Bowie. There’s none of the toxic vehemence and disagreements that have characterized reactions to so many news events and deaths. It’s weird and also somehow life-affirming to see the outpourings of so many strangers united in their unabashed love for the musical output of David Bowie.

There are o words here that can really pay tribute to him any better than the literally thousands of other sites and posts that are doing so, so if you feel inclined check those out. For me, I’m going to pay tribute by appreciating the man’s work one more time. It doesn’t even matter which album or song that plays when I hit “shuffle,” it’s Bowie. It will be great.

For the record it was the title track on Scary Monsters (and Super Creeps.)

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