David Bowie passes on

Shock as a legend takes his leave

It isn’t often that I sit bolt upright in bed at seven in the morning with eyes wide open, shouting What?

Actually, I’ve never done it until today when the news announced that David Bowie had died.

What? Isn’t he supposed to be, you know … ?


That’s it. Isn’t David Bowie supposed to be immortal? As a friend remarked today, I’ve never lived in a world without David Bowie, to which he might have added a little kicker: And I never expected to.

Who expected to be living in a world without David Bowie? Not I.

David BowieSome people seem to transcend mundane existence and David Robert Jones was one of them. As the same friend remarked, at least we still have his knife, though even that is a bit ambiguous. Did he really call himself after a notorious killing weapon, the Bowie knife, or after the man for whom it was named? And if he did, wasn’t it lucky he didn’t choose any of the other knife descriptions?

David Flick.

David Bread.

David Boning.

No. He was right when he went for Bowie, leaving Blunt for lesser artists.

When I was a lad, and that wasn’t today or yesterday, Limerick was a decent enough place to live, but I can’t deny that it was fairly direct. In working-class towns, people tend to be direct. You wouldn’t, for example, have ever suggested to anyone that they might be gay, unless you wanted a punch in the face, or maybe worse. Unless they were gay, of course. In those days, if you were gay and living in a land under the control of the Catholic church, you either jumped in the river or went insane on mind-bending drugs in Amsterdam.

But it was a paradoxical town at the same time. It was a place where you might not expect the stereotypical working classes to produce classical musicians, or socially-engaged doctors, or hippies for that matter. And yet that’s exactly what happened. And that’s why it came as no surprise when the toughest of the tough, guys who wouldn’t back down from the roughest front-row Kilfeacle could throw at them, or the nastiest lowlife spawned by skinheadery, were happy enough to tell the world that they were bisexual.

They probably weren’t, but that’s not the point. Tough guys, tough hippies, were happy enough to come out. Happy enough to embrace Bowie’s androgyny because it didn’t matter one flying shit to them.

David Robert Jones, a young lad from Brixton and later Bromley, with an Irish Catholic mother, reinvented himself as he would many times in years to come and presented an alternative vision of what might be possible with a little imagination. David Jones understood very clearly that all he had to do was tell people who he was now and they would believe him, thus making it possible for everyone else to do the same.

You want to be Ziggy Stardust? You’re Ziggy Stardust. You want to be the Thin White Duke? Fine. Just tell them with enough confidence and they’ll accept it because they, too, long for the exotic, the enigmatic and the thing that resides just a millimetre beyond the veil that divides our reality from the next. You’ll believe a London boy can be a starman because you want it to be so.

The real point is that David Bowie — along with many others — brought to every little backwater an understanding that there exists a great world out there, a world that couldn’t be confined within the narrow boundaries of the past, free of the old failures who still sought to impose the old discredited order on a youth yearning for something more.

And he never stopped offering us that freedom, which is why I found myself sitting up in bed at seven in the morning, wide-eyed and incredulous.


Perhaps more than any other artist of his time, Bowie showed us that everything is possible. You can be a goblin king. You can be a defiant prisoner of war. You can be the voice of everything that yearns to become real.

You can even fall to Earth, but of course, he knew that already.




BBC report

Official Bowie site


Rolling Stone

7 thoughts on “David Bowie passes on

  1. I recall, because it was difficult to get an LP under your coat without a heartless hand being placed on your shoulder, purchasing a recording of his back in the day, but the old town was being ravaged by a biblical storm.

    There was panic on the streets of Limerick to paraphrase another great artist, who like Bowie, has/had an Irish Ma, but no pubic transport would budge.

    But the only thing that was worrying me was getting home to hear The Man Who Sold The World, which had a big poster included.

    In 1968, Bowie penned “Even a Fool Learns to Love”. The music was set to the French song “Comme d’habitude”. No one would release Bowie’s version and Paul Anka bought the rights to Le Frog edition and re-gigged it and came up with “My Way”, which Sinatra turned into a massive hit.

    Bowie, according to some, wasn’t happy to hear Ol’ Blue Eyes” doing it his way, and, again, according to some, wrote Life on Mars as a snarky retort (“cause I wrote it ten times or more”, etc) to Anka.

    “But the film is a saddening bore
    ‘Cause I wrote it ten times or more
    It’s about to be writ again
    As I ask you to focus on

    Sailors fighting in the dance hall.”

    Some claim the last line is in reference to the Oscar-winning role of Sinatra in From Here To Eternity……

    Meantime, how about David Bowie the brave. It takes some guts to fight this terrible disease which has taken so many of our loved ones and still finish an LP just days before the end.

    Lazarus is a stunner. Two fingers to the Grim Reaper. Haunting, creative, disturbing, as you would expect, and brilliant. Bowie wrote his own obituary to once again storm the charts.

    “Look up here, I’m in heaven.”

  2. Thanks for the insight of his influence in Ireland.

    I’m still shocked, because a part of my past died. Now I really feel old and that something important is lost forever.

    David Bowie used to live literally round the corner from my place in Berlin in the seventies. We even frequented the same club in Schöneberg.

    I never met him though, not consciously. All of West Berlin was in the seventies David Bowie – or Che Guevara. It was a place full of oddballs, revolutionaries, drag queens, alternatives and everything the establishment despised. It was a place apart.

    Maybe I met him at the supermarket or along the street, but then I met a lot of David Bowies and Che Guevaras at that time in Berlin. Nothing special. West Berlin was then a hotpot of cultures and orientations and nobody cared much who was who. It was something that might have attracted David Bowie.

    He wrote “Heroes” while in Berlin, a song the Berliners still claim to be about them. Who knows.
    “Where ar we now” is certainly a reminiscence about his time in Berlin.

    I’m usually not good in memorising popular music, but I still have after all these years his voice and the arrangements in my ear without listening to the actual music: Space Oddity, Heroes, and yes, even China Girl and Let’s Dance. They are pointers in m life.

    I grew up with David Bowie, he was a musical and cultural parent, so to speak, an ever changing background that gave certainty to my own life’s changes .

    He is gone. Where am I now?

    Thanks Bernard for the link to Lazarus. I didn’t listen to his new Black Star album so far.
    Lazarus is indeed haunting and disturbing.

    How can one human being be so personal, so remote and still touching the lives of others?

  3. I remember back at the age of 13 watching DB on TOTP and me mam coming in and saying ‘will ye look at the state of him!’. Didn’t stop her popping in and out of the kitchen though for numerous quick peeps :)


    Thanks for the music, and the sense of freedom David.

  4. What a wonderful artist and part of a reawakening and reimagining of the world and the universe/multiverse. I hope there is an afterlife if onlybso his spirit can live.

    Laudate Dominum by Mozart is a fitting tribute as is his own music.

    I have yet to listen to the new Album…….

    May the Gods be good to him…..

  5. As a great admirer of his music, one of the other things that I admired most and read last week was he had turned down a Knighthood, as not being of any interest to him.
    The Thin White Anti monarchist, good on him, delighted he didn’t become anyone’s toady.
    And very humble to go for a private cremation and dispense with some monument which would be defaced by well meaning Japanese and Chinese tourists

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