Ziggy Played Guitar
Time takes a cigarette, puts it in your mouth. Time, he's waiting in the wings. He speaks of senseless things. Time may change me, but I can't trace time. But time could not prepare us for the loss of the man who wrote these lyrics, David Bowie.
When I awoke to the news that he had died the previous evening of cancer at age 69, as so many of us did, the shock was palpable. I was stunned. As Bowie has been so prevalent in our lives and our culture for so long (I first became really aware of him around 1972), and created so many incarnations and lasting impactful music, including his newest album released just two days before his death and on his 69th birthday, it was just unfathomable that he was suffering secretly for the last year and a half and dying, while creating art around the experience, fashioning his own goodbye in his own way.
For me personally, the most impactful album of his career was The Rise and Fall of Ziggy Stardust and the Spiders from Mars. It was during my first year of college that I played the hell out of this album, intently with headphones, often lost in the music with the aid of various substances I was starting to experiment with. I even wrote a college essay about it. That essay is now in a box somewhere and it would take me days to unearth it, but it had to do with the powerful effect that album had on me, especially the closing number, Rock ‘N’ Roll Suicide, a song that started with the simple strumming of an acoustic guitar (my instrument of choice), the gorgeous lyrics that I referenced in the first line of this piece, and it began to build. Slowly, steadily, gathering strength, to a crescendo and a bellowing “You’re Not Alone!” Full orchestration backing him now. “Give me your hands! Cause you’re NOT alone!” It left me drained every time I heard it. I was pursuing my own rock dreams at that time, writing songs and playing in a band called Small World. Listening to this album for me was a religious experience, which was the theme of that college essay I wrote about it.
As so often happens when we hear of the death of an idol from our youth, we are partly mourning the loss of that youth. It’s our own history slipping away. And today, these three years later, I know, we are not alone. So many of my peers are still mourning this loss together. May he rest in peace. His legacy will live on in our hearts and souls forever.