“Look out you rock ‘n rollers … pretty soon now you’re gonna get older.”
One of the downsides of getting older that nobody tells you about is you live to see some of your cultural icons die.
My first hint of that came in eighth grade when John Lennon was murdered. Even though the Beatles were before my time, their music was my soundtrack back then. John’s work in particular resonated with me, and his death came as a shock.
It’s weird losing these people I’ve never met whose creations have touched my life as deeply as only close friends have. Kurt Vonnegut, Carl Sagan, Frank Zappa, Jim Henson, George Carlin – when I heard of their deaths, I felt like I’d lost an old friend.
I feel a bit of that today with the news that David Bowie has died. His music has traveled with me all the way from the days of FM radio and LPs to these days of smartphones and streaming audio.
I never really connected with the various personas that Bowie adopted over the years, but I admired his ability to transform. Because another downside of getting older is we tend to forget we can still change.
We’re an odd hodgepodge of traits and beliefs we’ve tried on over the years and continue to wear even after they no longer fit us. Trying on something new seems dangerous compared to the safe comfort of lackluster familiarity.
That Bowie was able to change himself in front of us – multiple times – is almost as impressive as the body of work he created. Like all the icons I never knew who touched me all the same, I’m glad his time here intersected with mine.