January 11, 2016
True artists, no matter their medium, don’t just write songs or paint paintings. These artists are the people who live and breathe their work, who don’t describe fictional characters but become them. They are the people who influence hundreds of others to share their work and the people whose work resonates for generations long after they’re gone.
David Bowie was one of these people.
After battling cancer for a year and a half, reports confirmed that last night (Jan. 10th, 2016) Bowie died peacefully surrounded by his family. He had just released his newest album, Blackstar, earlier in the month. His death was not sudden, as Bowie planned this album to be “a parting gift to fans,” but that doesn’t negate the power of his memory and the sheer grief felt by his fans.
“It was the first thing my mom said to me when I came downstairs this morning,” Claire Casper (’17) said. “It was on the news and I started crying. I loved him.”
Casper was first introduced to Bowie in her favorite childhood film Labyrinth, in which he played the sinister Goblin King. She went on to follow his music and says she greatly respects the way he conformed to the music of the time while continuing to do his own thing.
AP US History teacher Ronald Simmons also discovered Bowie’s passing as soon as he woke up this morning.
“[My wife] said, ‘Did you know David Bowie died?'” Simmons said. “I was kind of shocked because, I don’t want to say I love David Bowie, but I grew up with him, you know?”
In high school, Simmons attended a live show for Bowie’s Let’s Dance album. China Girl, a song featured on the album written and originally performed by fellow rocker Iggy Pop, is Simmons’ favorite song, but he recalls Space Oddity being the first song he heard on the radio. Like much of his generation, Simmons was surrounded by Bowie’s music much of his childhood and into his adult life.
However, Bowie’s greatness bridges generation gaps and brings people together. His work is part of the culture in which Kaitlyn Prokopp (’17) was raised. From an early age, Prokopp watched documentaries following Bowie’s tours and music videos. For Prokopp, Bowie was the beginning of an exploration; his songs helped her discover her current musical tastes.
“I don’t think people understand how much a celebrity can impact you, even though they’re not directly involved in your life,” Prokopp said. “If anyone is upset about things like this, your feelings are justified and you can still mourn, even if you weren’t directly connected with someone. You shouldn’t feel embarrassed of your sadness.”
Last Friday, Bowie celebrated his final birthday, turning 69 years old. The next day, Prokopp’s dog, Bowie, celebrated his birthday as well. In a way, Prokopp feels that, without knowing it, she and her family were celebrating David Bowie’s life. As she grows older, Bowie’s music makes more of an impact in Prokopp’s life. She now more greatly appreciates the struggles recounted in Bowie’s lyrics and the boundaries he pushed in his music. He was able to address heavy topics in a light, catchy way.
Above all else, though, Prokopp admires the place Bowie holds in the history of music and the hearts of his fans.
“His persona of Ziggy Stardust and dressing like a woman and being openly bisexual… he was just a total icon,” Prokopp said. “No one was doing that and he paved the way for so many people to come out and be who they want to be. He was so… unapologetic.”