Why David Bowie was My First Lodestar

Posted at Jan 13, 2016 11:43 pm

(A shorter version of this blog was originally published on the YASquad blog.)

“And love dares you to care for the people on the edge of the light…” Under Pressure

Music is a huge part of my creative process, a huge part of my life, as I’m sure it is for most of you. I don’t play any instruments and I only sing in my car, but I devour music as a listener. I’ve attended countless concerts and used to wear out vinyl back when that was a thing.

And back then- it was always Bowie for me. You know how it is as a teen and music is EVERYTHING, because it’s the constant soundtrack to everything you do – with your friends, by yourself, in your car. You have endless debates with friends about bands and solo artists and can quote lyrics like a pro. 

I remember listening to music based on my mood, the time of day, or the event (whether real or imagined). I still do this today, and getting my playlist just right for my novels is a critical step of my writing process.

But back to Bowie- all that stuff I just babbled about really began with him. Discovering his music was like discovering a key to a world I didn’t know existed. His persona and his music was – is – brilliant, and as full of character and story as the best novels.


I’m an ‘80s girl so you might think I’d be raving about the Let’s Dance album, which was fun and poppy, but the albums that spoke to my soul, that stole my heart and my breath, were Space Oddity, The Rise and Fall of Ziggy Stardust, Heroes, Young Americans, Changes….okay, everything that came before Let’s Dance 😉

When I saw Merry Christmas, Mr. Lawrence in 1983 I was completely, irrevocably wrecked, sobbing in the theater. I immediately bought the soundtrack album (composed by Ryuichi Sakamoto-brilliant) and played it constantly, crying every time as I re-imagined the movie in those pre-YouTube/DVD/streaming days.

I had a David Bowie poster in the place of honor over my bedroom stereo system and spent countless hours laying on the floor in the dark listening to his albums, smoking cigarettes, and wallowing in misery or ecstasy, depending on the day (or the hour). My mom would come downstairs to do laundry, take one look at me, shake her head, and walk away.

Mom wasn’t a Bowie fan- in her mind I’d been a good, pop-music loving Catholic girl until I discovered this “weirdo’s” music. It was Bowie who inspired me to create my own “f-f-fashion,” to try out smoking, and all those other things parents don’t approve of. But those were just minor surface rebellions. 


We all need that push to make us question and define who we are, who we want to be, and that’s where Bowie impacted me most, in ways I’m only now realizing as I contemplate his effect on my life. I was fascinated by his gender-bending, his indefinable sex appeal that drew admirers of all orientations. I was in awe of his ability to reinvent himself, to embrace whatever persona served his musical story. His voice was – is – gorgeous and unique, much like Freddie Mercury’s, who I also adore. When the two of them made Under Pressure together I thought I’d died and gone to heaven.

bowie mercurty

The outpouring of love and grief from the LGBTQ community over his death affirms how vital his representation was, especially in the seventies and eighties. I’ve read so many tweets about how he and his music literally saved lives. And for a straight, white teen girl, his open and fluid expression of his sexuality opened my mind and heart for the LGBTQ friends I hadn’t even met yet, or who hadn’t come out yet. 

Bowie was a visionary who lived his life out loud, courageously, fiercely, uniquely. He made me want to do BIG THINGS. His music made me feel like anything was possible. His raw, passionate voice begging me not to give up in Rock and Roll Suicide spoke directly to me. When his voice broke as he sang, “Oh no love, you’re not alone! Gimme your hands ‘cause you’re wonderful!” I believed him.

My mom checked in with me yesterday, sending me a sweet email saying she knew his death must be hitting me hard, and how she knew his music “sang the story of your young life.” 

This blog is way too long (sorry) but I needed to add my voice to the worldwide chorus grieving his death, celebrating his life and art, and thanking him for his inspiration.

And in the end, I think he’d want all of us to dance.


1 Comment

One response to “Why David Bowie was My First Lodestar”

  1. Marietta Brown says:

    Always,always dance!

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