I don’t feel sad that David Bowie died

I don’t feel sad that David Bowie died. I find it strange to adjust to the idea that figures like him, Lou Reed and some others are no longer alive. They were present somehow for my whole life. They’re close to my parents in age. I have thought about their personal lives, given hours listening to their music in my youth. But their deaths are like the final stages of fame to me. They mark the inequality of this relationship in which I will live an imaginary version of their intimate details, while they don’t know I exist (save for a strange encounter alone with Lou Reed on the subway.)

Both of them lived with fame and success. They represented the carrots on the end of the stick for the music industry, wielded quietly against a million would be musicians. They “helped” (?) categorize aesthetics and sexuality for even more people. They were part of the way kingliness and godliness sneak back in through the back door at the anti-authority after party, even if perhaps DB may have detested that idea. They represented the men’s cool which allowed some women in for a period in the 90s and then kicked them out after 9/11 when, in ‘Merica (and now globally) women lost yet another fight against being seen as childbearers, mothers.

I may never have started playing music if it were not for Lou Reed and David Bowie and their ilk, depending on who more directly credits their existence, and whether they influenced me. Then again, maybe I would have been something else.

Fame defines talent, not the other way around. There are probably a million storytellers on the planet who, given the right means, could make as (or more or differently) insightful and devastating set of final videos. But much of that group is being maimed and tortured by bad labor conditions; they’re being deported or held in an immigration cell; or they are taking care of babies at home. What would we learn if the resources of Columbia Records were put towards documenting these lives? What kind of music might the least musical among them create?

It’s strange to be in a world from which the glam and rock heroes are departing because death now immortalizes and justifies how out of reach they are. Even if Bowie is the nice celebrity, even if I could have run into either of them in Central Park on a nice day and had a conversation; even if I had friends who collaborated with them, their out-of-reachness is not about knowing them. Their subjectivities have been exploited to watermark the heavens and help produce an eternal return of the Same, in which some figures are Great, and others barely exist.

Why do we keep coming back here? On the tragic side, perhaps this kind of impersonal love is much easier than what’s involved in real human relationships. Or perhaps it’s easier to categorize the self according to the Master figureheads whose clothes, tastes and style were circulated by a mega-profiting industry. On the bright side, perhaps this love can be credited for the self’s brilliant moments as inspiration. I still want to ask: what might any of us have created without God?


(Photo Credit: Niklas Halle / Agence-France-Press / Getty Images / New York Times)

About Dora Bleu

Dora Bleu is a performing and composing storyteller-musician. Her work explores expressions of the internalized security/military state.