We Can Be Heroes: An Appreciation of David Bowie


David Bowie was a genius and his life a model for how to live fiercely. In this age of pre-packaged, auto-tuned, over-produced pop stars, it’s hard to remember when originality, passion and creativity were more important than marketability and audience appeal. David Bowie slipped fluidly between musical genres, defied gender norms and created a sartorial style all his own.

As a teenager coming of age in the 1970s his music spoke to me deeply. He gave hope to freaks, misfits, outcasts and weirdos everywhere. His ability to be himself with no holds barred let me believe I could be myself too. The first time I heard his songs I was drawn in by the passion and the vibrancy of his music. What kept me interested was the fact that each album was different. He never settled and he never shied away from trying something new and different.

Diamond Dogs was an album that change my life. As an impressionable, shy teen, each song on that album spoke to me. I played it over and over on the stereo, dancing alone in my room imagining I was someone—imagining I was myself. That album was my entry into his oeuvre and I devoured every album after that. Until that is, he betrayed me. A fan of punk and glam rock I couldn’t forgive his foray into dance music on Let’s Dance in 1983 and so I left him behind, rejecting him, because he didn’t live up to my expectations.

Many years later I rediscovered his music and came to appreciate it in a whole new way. Listening to Let’s Dance I could appreciate the artistry and the musicianship in it. It’s funny, really, that I pushed aside the work of the man who led me to believe I could be whoever I wanted to be, because I didn’t approve of who he had become. How often do we do that with people we love—try to keep them within the confines of what we think they should do, who they should be, how they should behave? Who have you put out of your heart, because of this? Whose genius, whose artistry, whose passion, whose inspiration have you rejected—perhaps it’s someone else’s, perhaps it’s your own.

Reclaim your passion today. Leslie Steinberg, a fierce transgender warrior until her death, advocated living each day as if your hair were on fire. That’s the way Bowie lived. That’s the way Freddie Mercury lived. They didn’t let illness, debility, infirmity stop them from creating, living, loving. So, in the words of Auntie Mame, “Live, Live, Live.” Start today. Live your life now, live it fully. Don’t wait for the right time, the right person, the right job, the right age. Create calamitously, fail fabulously, love lavishly---live, live, live. What are you waiting for? If a young, gangly boy from Brixton, with scraggly teeth and what one teacher described as an “adequate” voice can do it, so can you.

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