I wrote this blog late on Monday night, under the moonlight, the serious moonlight.
The usual easy listening background music in my local coffee shop was replaced with an eclectic mix of David Bowie’s greatest hits. As we supped our Americanos the mood of people of a certain age seemed a little more somber and reflective than usual with the ghost like sounds of Space Oddity in the background.
For people of my generation there was shock on Monday morning at the announcement of the passing of the Starman. It wasn’t just that the extent of his illness had been kept so secret. Or the fact that nowadays you have to die several times according to Twitter before you actually pass on. It seems to be a shock to realize that a rock icon from your youth is not immortal after all.
David Bowie was an extraordinarily talented, creative and unpredictable artist. At a concert in Madison Square Gardens on his 50th Birthday he said “I don’t know where I’m going from here, but I promise it won’t be boring.” And with the release of his latest album just last week it turns out that even his death was shocking and unpredictable. The sight of hundreds of fans gathering to pay tribute at his birthplace in Brixton has been very moving, as they laid flowers and candles at his mural and took part in an impromptu sing-along of his hits.
Alongside his musical repertoire David Bowie often made the sort of comment that makes you sit up and think. He once said “Confront a corpse at least once. The absolute absence of life is the most disturbing and challenging confrontation you will ever have.”
I think one of the reasons the passing of a rock icon from our youth shocks us is that it reminds us of our own mortality. One of the lyrics on the Ziggy Stardust soundtrack says: “My death waits like a Bible truth, At the funeral of my youth”.
David Bowie once said: “As you get older, the questions come down to about two or three: how long and what do I do with the time I’ve got left?”
So, perhaps this time of sadness for the loss of a great rock star gives us an opportunity to step back and think about our own lives.
What are my priorities?
What will be my legacy?
What really matters?
What if I leave it too late to reconnect with someone?
What if I miss my chance to finally say sorry or thank you?
In the busyness of this day we can choose the important over the urgent. We can prioritise what is of lasting value over what is transient.
And we can put on our red shoes and dance…