Monday, 11 January 2016

Bowie dies of cancer aged 69

An extraordinary outpouring of grief on social media followed initial disbelief at news the chameleonic rock star David Bowie had died of cancer this afternoon Sydney time. I had just posted a blogpost about musicians dispelling evil in the world with their songs earlier in the afternoon, so it was particularly strange for me to read the news on social media. I, too, didn't believe at first.

Twitter and Fecebook soon lit up with people denying the news. Many thought the news announcement was a hoax at first, but soon the reputable news outlets were making tweets to announce the news, one after the other. I guess it was emblematic of the man that everyone thought the news of his death was fabricated at first, since everything about the man from year to year and from decade to decade was relentlessly fabricated. Novelty fed on novelty and hit song followed hit song.

The news finally filtered in and then the expressions of feeling were almost universal. It was strange to see so many disparate people showing how they personally reacted to the news of one man's death. Again, something odd, something out-of-the-ordinary. Something Bowie. @suracymbala tweeted: "I first heard Bowie when I was 12. That was also the first time I smoked pot & drank red wine." Carol Duncan of Newcastle  changed her Facebook profile picture to the Blackstar image (see pic accompanying this blogpost). @schetzer tweeted: "Wow. He seemed so much more than mortal. Vale #DavidBowie." @gmarkham tweeted: "Music has been a huge part of my life and I can’t think of any single artist who has made a deeper impression of me than David Bowie."

Time after time people drew out memories and feelings attached to the strange public transformations of this mercurial performer, a man who was never content, never comfortable, who relentlessly changed and changed again time after time ...

And as the afternoon slowly gave way to the evening, as the minutes passed, and as the stream of expressions of grief continued to emerge in public on social media people got used to the fact that they would not see another strange change. Their lives would be somehow less colourful, less grand, less special. It was a strange feeling to become attuned to this, but what we will never forget is the way the man touched so many people in intimate ways, in ways that went to the very root of their identity. A great achievement, you would have to say.

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