I do try to keep this blog limited to my professional exploits and experiences, and not to make it too personal, but with the passing of David Bowie, I have found myself grieving in a way that I have found surprising. As I consider the why, I have realized that David Bowie is so huge of a part of my musical and mental landscape.
Ironically, it all starts with Jim Henson. My mother went to high school with Jim Henson, and was a huge fan. We saw all of the Henson films and shows- including the Dark Crystal- which was way to scary for my 5 year old self. When Labyrinth came out in 1986, we of course saw it. I was 8 years old.
Amidst the grey, dark, colorless world, one figure glowed- David Bowie. It was love at first sight! And he also did the music! At this point, I was playing the piano, and LOVED music. There was an instant connection for me.
That same year that Labyrinth came out, my family and I moved from Idaho to Maryland. This was a huge deal to me. Although I was born in Maryland, we left Maryland when I was 1 to move to Knoxville, Tennessee, and we moved to Idaho Falls when I was 3. We had lived there for 5 years- I was 8 when we moved. While the parents were glad to be moving back home, to me, Idaho WAS home. I was in the 5th grade when I started school in Maryland in 1987. Labyrinth was still my favorite movie, and for some reason, David Bowie became such a huge deal for me. That year for Halloween, I found a wig similar to the one he wore in Labyrinth (it was green, but still the same style), and made up a costume that went along with it. That same wig resurfaced later in the year as part of my OM competition play- Rumplepunk (yeah, probably best not to ask about that). That year, my Christmas request was for the "Let's Dance" album. I have very clear memories of dancing alone in my bedroom in a small 3 bedroom apartment in Frederick to that album.
Three years later, we'd moved to our permanent home, and I was in middle school when Vanilla Ice sampled "Under Pressure" for his hit "Ice Ice Baby", which of course I listened to and enjoyed. This weird number 1 hit introduced me to Queen, and led me back to David Bowie. Kate Bush's concept album "Hounds of Love" led me to explore the idea of an album telling a story (before Pink Floyd did it with "The Wall"), and that led me to explore "The Rise and Fall of Ziggy Stardust and the Spiders From Mars"- which came out 12 years earlier in 1971. I have not seen the film- I keep thinking I need to have a David Bowie film festival at home.
By the time I hit college as a music major studying performance, the concept of Ziggy Stardust- of creating an alter-ego was and still is the way I deal with a lot of performance anxiety. Thanks David Bowie! That was incredibly helpful! On the other hand, hearing Iggy Pop for the first time (Nightclubbing, Lust for Life), I thought he was another David Bowie alter-ego. FYI- Major Tom was always my favorite. "Space Oddity" is such a fantastic song, and I am both sad and grateful that he was included in "Blackstar".
As I have continued to dwell on the passing of David Bowie, and the strange hole left in my soul by a man that I never knew, I have asked myself- is there another artist out there who has influenced me as much as David Bowie? No. There are so many that I love: artists I aspire to be such as Diana Krall, or Norah Jones, artists who bring me back to a specific time or place like Tori Amos, or Nirvana, artists who have taught me that art and music can create positive change like Del McCoury (who I owe a HUGE debt of gratitude to), or Bono. There are artists who've been around since I first became aware of music like Madonna, MIchael Jackson, Jon Bon Jovi, and Steve Martin (thanks Muppet Show!), artists who've shown me that even though I spend a lot of time working with kids, I don't have to do "kids" songs (thanks Joe Craven!). I've got friends making names for themselves- Laura Burhenn, Jessica Mussen, Louise Fury, Jody Mosser, Michael Russeck for whom I am emotionally invested and rooting for. The list goes on and on, and while I love these people, it is David Bowie who engaged me while I was very young, and remained relevant throughout my entire life. I am so grateful for all he has taught me and will continue to teach me I'm sure.
There is actually one other for whom I will be devastated when he passes, and that is... Sir Elton John. I hope he lives a long life, because I can't handle losing him too.
is a professional pianist, teacher, singer, and Music Director currently residing in Snohomish, Washington. She is the Director of Music at Peace Lutheran Church in Monroe, WA, and also teaches private piano, voice and ukulele lessons at The ARK in Snohomish, WA.