As the world joins in collective grief at the passing, and celebration of the life, of David Bowie, I’ve been thinking about his music, his influence and the importance of music in general upon my life, about why music matters.
I’m not a musician in any way, shape or form. If I sing a note in tune it’s definitely a coincidence and I can’t play any instruments, yet music is a huge part of my life. It can mould my mood, shape my day, raise my soul, bring me to tears. Music is powerful and Bowie’s has a curious, mystical power that few can achieve and none can copy.
They say that imitation is the highest form of flattery and I have to say that Nirvana’s cover of Man Who Sold The World as well as astronaut Chris Hadfield’s cover from the International Space Station of Space Oddity are sublime, but nobody else is or could be David Bowie. He was an icon, an individual in the truest sense and his image, music and art will outlive all of us.
I was born in 1986, so arguably the major impact that Bowie had was sort of lost on me and my enjoyment of his music comes from years after the songs were recorded. Does that matter? Nope! Some of my absolute favourite artists died before I was born or when I was young – Marvin Gaye, Kurt Cobain, Nick Drake, Carl Perkins, the best half of the Beatles, Nina Simone, Buddy Holly, Nat King Cole. That is why music matters though, isn’t it? I was either very young or not even born when these people passed yet their music has meant so much to me in my lifetime and many of them have featured in some of the most poignant times of my life. Nick Drake serenaded me on nights when I felt like I couldn’t keep going, couldn’t keep working 70+ hour weeks just to make ends meet. Nat King Cole sang Phil and I through our first dance at our wedding. Kurt Cobain featured in a huge poster that adorned my bedroom wall in my early teens and Here Comes the Sun, written by George Harrison for the Beatles and covered by Nina Simone, is probably my favourite song of all time; it was on the birth playlist that I had to switch off because the music was making me emotional when I needed to be strong.
Music is one of the first and the last things that we respond to in life; Toby has always enjoyed a good boogie to anything from Linkin Park to Eric Clapton and my Nan, who has advanced stage Alzheimer’s, would still dance and clap to ABBA, Andre Rieu and her old favourite Cliff, long after she stopped responding to casual interaction with the people around her.
This morning as I sat in shock reading the news of David Bowie’s passing my beautiful, innocent 18 month old son cuddled me then sat and danced on the sofa to Space Oddity before asking for his guitar to play with. He and his Daddy have a wonderful bond through their love of guitars (amongst other things, they’re awesome together!) and one of the first things Toby learned how to do was bang the bongo drum in our living room. He now asks for a plectrum when Phil plays guitar so that he can join in. It’s magical. Okay, so he also thinks that the intro music to Twirlywoos is the best thing since sliced bread, but there’s time for him to outgrow that!
So, as the world mourns for and also celebrates David Bowie, let’s all pick our favourite songs and play them, enjoying as the notes and words course through our veins and pump endorphins through our bodies. Be lifted, be settled, be emotional, be inspired. Just be whatever the music leads you to be.