I woke up to six messages about him.
“David Bowie died.”
“DAVID BOWIE IS DEAD”
“I’m sorry about David Bowie I love you.”
Celebrity deaths are strange. It's difficult to grieve the life of someone you knew but didn’t know. In some ways it feels vulgar to be sad about the deaths of famous people, like you’ve accidentally walked into a funeral you weren’t invited to being held at the church you grew up in. But with David it feels different. With David it feels just like someone I knew.
Back in the late nineties, when there were still Blockbusters and VHS tapes, my Dad took me to the video store each week to rent the same filmic trifecta in rotating order: The Dark Crystal, The Last Unicorn, and The Labyrinth. Of the three, The Labyrinth was unquestionably my favorite. I was in love with Bowie.
I loved everything about David Bowie in that movie. I loved his makeup, his weird eye, how his voice shook and boomed all at once. I loved that he looked like a boy and a girl and neither of those things. I loved those tights. I loved the way he played himself but was still very much acting. I didn’t know the Goblin King in The Labyrinth was named Jareth until I was fourteen. I had always just called him David Bowie.
I never like to listen to “Space Oddity” in the car. It’s always made me uneasy –– some songs are too powerful to have playing when you’re doing something dangerous. “Space Oddity” always felt like that to me, like how you’re not supposed to be able to look at God. Listening to that song takes too great a toll on my mortal form. It’s the kind of song you die to, and I mean that in the best way.
David Bowie’s music is like that –– all the best music in the world is like that. There’s nothing like the feeling you get when music transcends you, when you can feel your heart try to leave your chest and become part of a song. That feeling is in “Space Oddity” and “Ziggy Stardust” and “Where Are We Now?” and “As the World Falls Down.” It’s in so many of David Bowie’s songs; it’s in David Bowie himself.
I never wanted to own The Labyrinth growing up. I liked that it was special and that I had to go on a quest to the Blockbuster to get it. I loved thrill of walking up to its memorized spot in the dusty corner of old forgotten films, hoping no one had taken it out before I could get to it. I would watch it over and over at the foot of parents’ bed, perched inches from the grainy television on their dresser, enthralled with Bowie’s grand entrance on the balcony of Toby’s nursery –– where I am almost certain glitter flies into the air as the French doors bust open. I knew I only had the weekend to watch him, and I didn’t waste my time doing anything else.
Loving Bowie felt like chasing something, it always has and it always will. Last night our tape of The Labyrinth was due back, and I’m going to miss it dearly. As a friend quoted Bowie on Instagram this morning, “the stars look very different today.” They really do. There’s a new one up there.