I woke up around 4:30 this morning, rolled over and looked at my phone on the nightstand. I don’t know what woke me up so early. On the screen was a news alert that David Bowie is dead.
Sometime around my first cup of coffee, I realized that he will make more than one appearance in tomorrow’s restaurant review. It was written a week ahead of his death.
The review is on Hunky Dory, which got its name from a David Bowie album. I noticed Bowie on the restaurant's overhead speakers even before I realized it was named after one of his albums. He figures a lot into the restaurant that the Treadsack group built to showcase chef Richard Knight’s talents. There are cocktails named for his songs and his music plays on the sound system frequently.
Let’s Dance was released on April 14, 1983. It was the album that would propel the eccentric Bowie into the mainstream. I was 15 years old and, like many of that age, struggling to establish my identity as a human being who would soon be an adult. "Let’s Dance" may not have provided any answers, but it sure supplied a beat and a background. Those born earlier than me will remember Bowie as Ziggy Stardust or as the Thin White Duke. My introduction, though, was to a leonine man with golden blond hair who wanted me to dance with him under the serious moonlight. I was happy to oblige. He was a muse for the creative, the misunderstood, the disenfranchised and the adventurous.
The following year’s single, “Blue Jean,” actually resonated more with me, even though I thought the accompanying 21-minute music video/film was a little silly. Still though, when Bowie appeared onscreen in a genie costume, half of his face dramatically contoured in dark makeup, I thought, “This man has a remarkable presence. I wish I had a presence like that.” Bowie was one of those performers who looked more at home in costume than street clothing. Even in rags, he was regal.
I read later he hated this dance beat-driven period of his music career. I was sorry to hear that. It was an important part of the '80s and will forever be part of the internal soundtrack I still carry as an adult.
Later, I’d introduce my kids to the movie, Labyrinth. I don’t know of anyone else who could have pulled off the role of The Goblin King while surrounded by a bunch of puppets. Bowie seemed truly menacing amid the chaotic flurry of Jim Henson's cast of dancing felt. Yet Bowie managed to inject some good-natured humor into the role, as if to acknowledge it was all rather ridiculous.
For all the silliness, when Bowie says near the end, “Just fear me, love me, do as I say and I will be your slave,” it's incredibly powerful. All masters, ultimately, are servants to their subjects. Bowie was never our slave—but there’s no doubt he provided for us.
I wasn't the only one with a poignant Bowie coincidence. On Saturday, The Continental Club hosted its 6th Annual Bowie Elvis Fest. Bowie and Elvis Presley shared a birthday of January 8. As my friend Jennifer succinctly put it, "Bowie Elvis Fest was our goodbye to him. We just didn't know it." And Blackstar, his final album, is his goodbye to us.
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It's hard to watch Bowie in the music video for the song, "Lazarus," writhing in bed and frantically struggling to write some final words in a journal that's too small to hold them. As a writer who is nearing 50, that is an image I relate to all too well. Life is short and it passes by quickly. It is important to write your words, whether they are formed by letters or by actions. Don't wait.
Tomorrow, you'll find out what I think of Hunky Dory, the restaurant. I hope it also reflects that I noticed and appreciated the homage to one of the most important musicians who ever lived.
Rest in peace, David Bowie, and thank you for the music.
Updated, 1/11/2016, 12:47 p.m.: Hunky Dory is hosting a tribute to David Bowie this evening at 5 p.m. Visit the event Facebook page for more information.