Today I’m grateful, like so many others, for David Bowie.
Although I wasn’t born in what you might class as the Bowie era, I was most definitely raised on his music. My dad absolutely adores David Bowie. Most of my earliest and fondest memories involve music and there are an assortment of tracks, particularly from Bowie’s Ziggy Stardust phase, that stick out. It’s primarily because of my dad that I have such an intense love for music. Many of my tastes – Bowie, R.E.M, ELO, Oasis, Led Zeppelin, The Who – all come from him. I’ve also inherited things from Mum, of course. Artists such as Bruce Springsteen, Bob Dylan and ABBA, or albums like The Wall by Pink Floyd spring to mind most readily.
When I was in primary school I used to collect out of circulation coins. A strange hobby for a child, perhaps, but I think it stemmed from Dad’s appreciation for old notes. We used to take regular trips to the local market and I’d spend my newly acquired pocket money on these coins, picking them because they were a nice shape or because my collection was lacking that particular representative. I’ve always felt that I was born in the wrong decade and am continually drawn to nostalgic things (like my dad, in fact!) On the way home, Bowie would invariably be in the CD player.
We’d sing our hearts out to The Rise and Fall of Ziggy Stardust and the Spiders from Mars, me getting the words wrong or substituting them for others. It would be years later that I’d realise that I’d been singing incorrect lyrics for the best part of my life! Starman was one of my favourites and still is today because of all of those positive connotations. I would request certain tracks by referring to words in the songs – ‘Can we have tigers on vaseline next?’ (Hang On To Yourself) – if I didn’t know the name. But it didn’t matter, those Saturday mornings were great.
It’s safe to say that Dad’s Bowie appreciation became a bit of a standing joke in our household. He would routinely make an appearance while we were having Sunday lunch, or while cleaning or cooking was happening. Any time was Bowie time and it became an amusement – ‘Gosh, we haven’t heard this for ages!’ The first time I went on a school trip to London I bought presents for my family, opting for a poster of the Ziggy Stardust album cover for Dad. It was, I felt, him in a nutshell.
For a while Dad eased off the Bowie listening, chose other old favourites music to accompany meals or household chores. Then, he came into the kitchen one evening having listened to the whole Ziggy album and stated, with absolute sincerity, ‘I think I might be getting back into Bowie, you know? I’ve been listening to Ziggy and it’s just such a great album.’ To us, as a family who had lived with Bowie as a constant figure for our whole lives, this was too funny for words. When had Dad ever not been into Bowie?!
I am grateful for Bowie for providing me with such an excellent foundation for my future music tastes. He, and my dad’s concept of what was ‘good’ music, gave me the tools to evaluate future choices. Sure, I have some cheesy tracks that I harbour, my first single was of the Spice Girls (still ashamed), but I very firmly know what I class as ‘good’ or ‘authentic’. It’s tripped me up a few times at university and due to my appreciation for ‘classic’ rock/pop music of the past I often fail to know what is going on in the present. During a lecture in my first year I asked a friend, ‘Who’s Katy Perry?’, and he looked at me for a second or so and said, ‘I can’t tell if you’re serious or not!’
Whatever way you look at it, Bowie was an incredible figure. His influence knows no bounds and even if you don’t appreciate his music or artistic style, you can’t deny his presence. His ability to be unashamedly individual. And that’s what I feel we should all strive for. Individuality. We are all amazing people. We deserve to be happy in our own skins. We deserve to have the freedom to be ourselves without fear of persecution or discrimination. We need to swap the worries about what people will think of us and just go out and be. Be bold. Be unique. Be YOU.