RIP David Bowie

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I don’t remember the first time I heard David Bowie because I was born in 1979 and he was always there, ahead of me. Always on.

I don’t remember the first time I heard David Bowie, but I do remember my uncle and my cousin would riff this routine on Bowie and Jagger’s video for “Dancing in the Streets,” which I knew even as a child (the video; the routine) was campy fun. Maybe I didn’t know the fun was camp. Maybe I learned the camp from Bowie.

I don’t remember the first time I heard David Bowie, but I do remember the first time I saw Labyrinth.

I don’t remember the first time I heard David Bowie, but I do remember my babysitter, who I believed I was in love with—I was nine, a mature (?!) , impressionable nine—declaring, “David Bowie is my hero” in a dreamy voice. I didn’t that was an option, that a singer could be a hero. I hadn’t heard “Heroes” yet.

I don’t remember the first time I heard David Bowie, but I do remember being utterly bewildered as Macauly Culkin introduced Tin Machine on Saturday Night Live. This was in 1991. I was in, what, seventh, sixth grade? Why weren’t they David Bowie and Tin Machine? My father couldn’t tell me.

I don’t remember the first time I heard David Bowie, but I do remember the first Bowie tape I bought on my own, Diamond Dogs. I think I paid $7.99 for it at the Camelot in the mall. I was in the ninth grade. Then Ziggy Stardust—they were like novels, like sci-fi novels. (I think I tried The Man Who Sold the World next and didn’t quite understand its blues).

I don’t remember the first time I head David Bowie, but I do remember not understanding what the hell was going on in the beginning of Fire Walk With Me.

I don’t remember the first time I heard David Bowie, but I do remember the first time I head Earthling and I thought it wasn’t half bad.

I don’t remember the first time I heard David Bowie, but I do remember my first real Bowie phase, in my freshman year of college: Low“Heroes,” Lodger. And later: Young Americans. Although all you needed for a real proper dance part was Changesbowie (even “Fame ’90” was a jam). You could (you can!) sweat and grind and flop and writhe with others to Bowie; you could (you can!) sit in your room and listen to Bowie on big headphones. Drive to Bowie.

I don’t remember the first time I heard David Bowie, but I do remember that my friend Nick was always ahead of me on Bowie, always sort of leading me into and through Bowie. That Bowie was and is somehow mixed into our friendship.

I don’t remember the first time I heard David Bowie, but I do remember coming home from college one weekend to discover my father had bought ‘Hours…’. This perplexed me. The old man was never a big Bowie fan. “I liked ‘Thursday’s Child.'”

I don’t remember the first time I heard David Bowie, but I do remember the first time I saw The Man Who Fell to Earth. And the next few times.

I don’t remember the first time I heard David Bowie, but I do remember the first time I heard Adrian Belew’s guitar playing on “Boys Keep Swinging.”

I don’t remember the first time I heard David Bowie, but I do remember his evocation of Andy Warhol in Basquiat. And how appropriate, now, I suppose: Bowie does Warhol. That Bowie extended Warhol was a given—Bowie transcended Warhol, and Bowie performing Warhol is a perfect trick, given the relationship of both artists to authenticity and art. Bowie intuited—and then exemplified and engendered and practiced—that authenticity is a performance, that authentic authenticity must be performed. This is why David Bowie was the signal artist of the emerging 21st century.

I don’t remember the first time I heard David Bowie, but I do remember a few months after I graduated college, on the way to work, sleepy, maybe a bit hungover, breaking down in tears at “Space Oddity” for no good reason.

I don’t remember the first time I heard David Bowie, but I do remember the first time I heard David Bowie at a wedding.

I don’t remember the first time I heard David Bowie, but I do remember drunkenly demanding that my best friend blast “Blue Jean” at a party he was having.

I don’t remember the first time I heard David Bowie, but I do remember my son asking who John was re: “John, I’m Only Dancing.”

I don’t remember the first time I heard David Bowie, but I do remember the first time I heard Blackstar. How?

I don’t remember the first time I heard David Bowie, but I do remember how sad I felt the day Lou Reed died—was he not immortal? If Lou Reed could die anybody could die. But not David Bowie. David Bowie is too immortal to die.

The intimacy we feel with our heroes. They sing for us. They sing loud and public, or privately for us. We sweat to them or fall asleep or space out or more. We jam them into our ear. We know that they wrote those songs for usAbout us. How ridiculous to think, Well of course you didn’t know David Bowie! Of course I knew David Bowie.

I don’t remember the first time I heard David Bowie, but I do remember pulling out David Bowie records and playing tracks from them all afternoon.

I don’t remember the first time I heard David Bowie, but I do remember that there’s a lot I’m forgetting, but I’m just riffing and ranting and maybe you loved him too. I bet you did.