On January 10th, the world awoke to the news that David Bowie had died, aged 69. People took to the streets of Brixton, to a hastily organised street party to celebrate the life of its most famous son.
The following morning, I made my way to Brixton to pay tribute, as so many others had, at the Aladdin Sane mural on the side of Morleys department store. After the singalongs of the night before, the scene that awaited was a much more subdued affair – yet beautiful, in it’s own way. Despite the crowd of people, it was the quietness that was most striking. Strangers hugged, and the faint sound of ‘Rock and Roll Suicide’ played from a mobile phone. People laid down their flowers, T-shirts, prints, taking a personal moment to pay their respects to an artist who had such a profound effect on so many lives.
I suppose one of the reasons his passing came as such a shock was that he always seemed more than mortal – the idea of him dying never crossed my mind. He had seemed like something from another world. When it transpired that he’d survived seven heart attacks, it came as no surprise – I joked that he probably had another perfectly functioning heart in there.
The sheer spectrum of people around the mural on that Tuesday showed just a tiny fraction of how far his reach spread. From teenagers to people in their sixties. The notes, written in several languages. With every incarnation, Bowie reached more and more of us, changing style not because of trend or fad, but because that was the best way of saying what he wanted to say. He wasn’t a chameleon, as so many people put it – he was the opposite. Always standing out from his surroundings.
As everyone analyses his most recent release – the fantastic ‘Blackstar’ – there is one thing that is more important to remember than almost anything else: David Bowie remained creative until the day he died. Intensely private in his later years, he still managed to dominate the music scene and the world around him with the same fierce creativity that he always had. And that’s exactly why he and his music endured, and will continue to do so. The word ‘genius’ is thrown around far too much nowadays, but in this case there is no better word.
So honour him the best way possible. Listen to his music. Trawl back through his back-catalogue. Cook your dinner to the snarling Ziggy Stardust. Listen to his Berlin trilogy on your way to work. Because the true greats never really disappear, and David Bowie will never stop being important.