It is 11:47pm as I write this. I’m in a state of shock. I knew Bowie had stopped touring, but to the outside world, he’d seemed stronger than he’d seemed in years. He released a new album just a couple of days ago on his 69th birthday. But its confirmed: David Bowie died in his sleep today after an 18-month battle with cancer, surrounded by family. It doesn’t seem real, and it seems all too real, at the same time.
Few musicians have had the impact on me that David Bowie had. His example taught me that even if I wasn’t the best guitarist or synth player or singer in the world, if I was myself, then I could still have something to say. Like so many new wave/alt/goth/industrial/modern rockers, David Bowie’s songs were more than inspirations, they became the vocabulary by which I formed my own sounds and stories. It was no accident that with my previous band, we covered Ziggy Stardust—and even integrated some of Space Oddity, just because.
And when my then-girlfriend Michelle and I needed a name to give the American Kennel Club for our giant schnauzer, Luna, we named her “Moonage Daydream,“ one of our favorite David Bowie songs.
I saw Bowie live three times, and I remember each one extremely well. I saw him play a huge stadium in a double bill with one of my other most influential groups, Nine Inch Nails. And it was a true double bill—after Nine Inch Nails played a set, NIN and Bowie segued into a few songs together, and then Bowie did his set.
I was amazingly lucky to see David Bowie in a very small club show in Hollywood, at the now defunct Sequoia Athletic Club. This was the band for his Earthling album and tour, and they were playing larger arenas and smaller shows, and my friend managed to get tickets to the smaller show. He was engaged and charming and played a lot of less popular songs, it was fantastic. And then the next night, we saw the larger arena tour as well. I’m extremely grateful I got to see both sides of Bowie live—the personable, small club Bowie, and the larger-than-life, arena rocker Bowie.
In the coming days, there will be a plethora of articles about his impact on pop music, culture, on science fiction, and film. I’ll probably read many of them. But mostly, I’ll be listening to a lot of David Bowie, connecting with the spirit of a man I never met in person but has as much to do with who I am as any artist I’ve ever encountered.