The Goblin King is dead. I wish I could say “Long live the new Goblin King”, but this one was irreplaceable. There was only one David Bowie, one Ziggy, one White Duke. One Goblin King. If the world was fair, his extraordinary talent should have allowed him to escape death, but we all know that the world’s not fair at all.
Today I’m here to pay him a tribute, being one lucky kid who, in spite of her young age, had the privilege to grow up with his music. I owe it to two people: my dad and Jim Henson.
I was ten and already a hard core fantasy fan. I spent my free time with my cat reading in my room all sort of books, fantasy being my favourite genre. I also watched a lot of fantasy movies. And I was a huge fan of Jim Henson and his Muppets.
One day, a few days before Xmas, my father entered my room holding two tickets to go to a “marathon of 80s fantasy movies” featuring, among many others, two films by Jim Henson: “The Dark Crystal” and “Labyrinth”. Obviously, I was very excited to go! I don’t know why, but Labyrinth intrigued me the most, at the time. Today, I believe it was my sixth sense talking to me, since that movie would completely change my life. I can well say that, since if I hadn’t watched it and discovered David Bowie, I wouldn’t be the person that I am today.
I remember my stupor when the lights in the cinema went off and the opening credits started rolling on the screen with David singing “Underground” and that amazing white owl was shooting through the darkness. I remember the turmoil in my stomach when the Goblin King appeared for the first time. It was like being hit by lightning. Well, it was actually puberty, but you get the picture! J Jareth was so handsome and mysterious, so feminine and manly at the same time … It was impossible not to be fascinated by him.
I remember staring at the weird ceiling of the cinema, covered with colourful stuccos, while I was exiting with my dad and I remember that the moment we stepped outside we were surprised by the snow. The cinema was on an 18th century pedestrian street which looked all the more charming and mysterious under the white flakes, adding more magic to my already magical experience.
I bought the Labyrinth soundtrack the following day and it was my first CD ever! All the others followed and, by the age of twelve I had every single title by David Bowie. I listened to Bowie during my entire adolescence, which made me look even weirder in front of my peers: I was supposed to listen to modern light pop, to Michael Jackson, to disco music. Not to an ‘old’ singer from the 70s. I didn’t care. I listened to his songs and felt understood. Bowie was the protector off all misfits like me, of all us outsiders, unable to really, ever fit in: His songs told us that it was not only OK to be different; it was actually COOL.
At the time, I was a clumsy, pathologically introverted bookworm who was trying hard to figure out what “being a girl” meant. I was clueless. I didn’t even know how to pin a bun, plus, make-up seemed to run away screaming from my face every time I tried to put on some. No boy even considered to date me. My beautiful, elegant mum was perplexed, to put it mildly. I was very frustrated, sad at times. Still, whenever I felt too lonely, all I needed to do was going to my room and put on what I considered to be my hymn: “Rebel, Rebel”, from the Diamond Dogs album (1974). “You’ve got your mother in a whirl, She’s not sure if you’re a boy or a girl … Rebel Rebel, you’ve torn your dress, Rebel Rebel, your face is a mess
Rebel Rebel, how could they know? …”
It’s amazing how someone who’s never met you can know you so well.
When I turned 13 I read an interview where Bowie was asked about his favourite authors. He named Oscar Wilde. I already vaguely knew who he was, but only then I felt compelled to check his books out, only because David Bowie liked them. I know, it was silly, but if you’re not allowed to be silly when you’re 14, then when? J Anyway, being silly for once paid off, since with Wilde it was love at first reading, so to say. I devoured ALL his books in a few week, then started reading books about him for fun. To this day, Wilde is my favourite author ever and deeply influenced my humour. All thanks to David Bowie. It’s weird to owe so much to someone you’ve never met.
And, unconsciously, two days before his death David gave me his last, I think most precious gift. I was listening for the first time to the new album, when it was the turn of the Lazarus song. It says:
“Look up here, I’m in heaven
I’ve got scars that can’t be seen
I’ve got drama, can’t be stolen …”
Scars and drama that “can’t be stolen” are clearly seen as trophies to be proud of, not something to run away from.
During his rather short, yet super-intense life, David went through a lot: multiple rejections before his big break, heartbreaks, a nasty drug addiction and even the death of his beloved older brother, who committed suicide in the 80s after a long fight against a mental illness. In spite of all this pain, Bowie never ran away from emotions, like others would do, like I would do: He actually embraced emotions, no matter how painful and embarrassing they were, and turned them into beautiful songs. He was brave enough to live his life to the fullest and wise enough to know that pain is part of it. He knew that the only way not to ever be disappointed is to never try anything. That the only way not to miss someone or cry over his death is to … never care for anybody. I think that’s why he, at the end of his life, was so proud of his scars and his drama, because they were proof that he had felt and lived and loved.
So long David, we will miss you. You were so handsome and sensitive and talented … you really were “a babe with a power”, but a power much, Much better than voodoo! 😉