David Bowie is dead.
Of course, by now we’ve all heard and we’re all struggling to come to terms with it. He was so immortal. I found out the news last night as I was getting ready to go to sleep. Already my Facebook newsfeed was beginning to flood with shocked status updates and tributes to the Starman. This morning, there was nothing but Bowie tributes on Facebook, Mic, Vice, and many other news sources. Not to mention all my friends posting their favorite songs and memories of his music. One of my creative writing professors posted a long tribute to Bowie, including photos of a few pages of her novel where Bowie’s music is a central theme.
I wasn’t raised on Bowie. I was raised on U2 and the Moody Blues and Joni Mitchell and Bob Dylan. I was introduced to Bowie in college, and though I appreciated his charisma and total weirdness, it wasn’t love at first sight. I’m okay with that. It’s a matter of familiarity, and I’m working on that. “Heroes” and “Space Oddity” and “Under Pressure” are often playing on my Spotify. (Those who know me well know that when Robert Smith of The Cure passes, I’ll be inconsolable.)
But that’s not the point. I feel like I have an interesting perspective on the Bowie’s death, precisely because I’m not a raging fan. It has been fascinating and moving to see the surge of voices reacting to the tragedy on social media. Today has been one mini, spontaneous, virtual eulogy after another. It’s made me think about how much we as a society spend criticizing social media. We talk about how it has taken the place of in-person conversations and relationships, how it has ruined productivity. Yet for all our criticisms, it is impossible not to admit that it is also a powerful tool of solidarity. We saw an example of solidarity during the recent bombings in Paris. The responses to the tragedy, though controversial, were global and instantaneous and made me realize how much power the internet holds.
And Bowie is dead. And all day, I have seen this eulogy of the masses on social media, and it has been moving and thought-provoking. It is beautiful. It is inspiring and comforting. So many people care, and it is yet one more example of the power of art in our world. Bowie passes away, and thousands of people weep over their keyboards as they post Space Oddity to Facebook, with a comment noting the first time they heard the song and how much it means to them.
I am not a hardcore Bowie fan, and yet I’ve felt the power of the sentiments I’ve read today. I’m grateful for this tool we have at our fingertips that brings us all together at such strange, sudden moments.
This is Major Tom to Ground Control: Memory Eternal to a phenomenal artist.