(A version of this article appears on www.headstuff.org, the culture, comment and news website.)
TOO beautiful to live; to elegant to grow old – but David Bowie is dead.
The pop superstar/artist’s passing took millions by surprise on the morning of January 11. The news led bulletins around the world, including the serious BBC morning programme. When I caught the tail end of the headlines I thought I must have misheard – it must have been a reference to the musician’s birthday, 69 last Friday, or the release of his latest album, Black Star.
Bowie was one of the most famous people in the world – if you doubt it, check out the international coverage of his death from cancer, in the cliched phrase “after a long battle”. In Melbourne last August, I went to the big exhibition about Bowie which has been touring the world since its premiere at London’s Victoria and Albert Museum in 2013 – currently it’s at the Groningen Museum in the Netherlands.
Mentioning this visit to a relative later, she vaguely asked “What does David Bowie do?”
That response, apart from eliciting mirth and incredulity, poses a question that the same exhibition literature attempted to explain: “one of the most pioneering and influential entertainers of modern times,” it summed up, adding “Bowie’s work has both influenced and been influenced by wider movements in art, design, theatre and contemporary culture”.
But apart from all that, he was our Dave.