He told us not to blow it ‘cause he knows it’s all worthwhile
Sorry I’m late to the commemoration of one of the most influential musicians of my lifetime. I was in Namibia cruising down a desert road miles from any living soul when I heard the news of David Bowie’s death come on the radio.
Or at least I assumed that was what the report was about. The station was all-German (a legacy of Namibia’s colonial past) and the broadcast went something like this to my ears:
German German German David Bowie German German German Iggy Pop German German German Berlin German German German … German German German …
But, from the somber tone of the announcer and not being able to figure out why else there’d be a news update about Bowie, I surmised the worst must be true.
I looked around – nothingness everywhere – and had something of a Major Tom moment.
Then I started remembering how not even an hour before – and off and on over the past several days – I had been humming Starman (mostly because I’d watched The Martian on my flight down and the song featured prominently in the film) …. and how a few days earlier Life on Mars had come to mind as I explored the otherworldly landscape of northern Namibia’s Skeleton Coast … but how that wasn’t really anything all that serendipitous or even coincidental: David Bowie’s lyrics and music often had been near the forefront of my thoughts serving as an appropriate soundtrack as anything I’d ever listened to since I discovered his music for myself during my early teens.
Let all the children boogie
Then I remembered the brief encounter I’d actually had with the artist about 15 years ago at Newark Airport. I was with my then-wife waiting at a gate to board a flight. I don’t remember where we were going, but I think it was Hawaii. A couple walked past toward an empty waiting area of the terminal. My ex chirped excitedly “That was Iman!” We looked and could see she was with her husband.
At that time I was still writing and recording music and playing gigs. The website MP3.com was a pretty big deal then, and I had my own profile page. So I scribbled out a note with my URL and email and headed over to greet the legend. David and Iman sat alone at a gate behind a sign. If we had not have seen them pass we would not have been able to tell anyone was there. It was easy to tell the two were trying to hide. I imaged they’d fled a lounge as even from first and business class flyers they had been hounded for their fame. As soon as we approached it was easy to tell they just wanted us to go.
But I told the man I wasn’t just a fan but also a musician inspired by him and that I would love it if he would have a listen to my MP3s. I gave him my strap of paper. His face lit up. He beamed with a broad smile and accepted my note graciously. We let them be and went back to our gate to wait for our flight.
I was thrilled, to have met a legend and to be seen on the cusp of a new age by him. Of course, David Bowie never actually wrote me but I did notice a slight bump in hits to my MP3 page and started receiving email newsletters from davidbowie.com soon after.
A slow voice on a wave of phase