Why we are sad about David Bowie

Slew of sad songs playing in this coffee shop. "Goodbye Yellow Brick Road," by Elton John, which reminds me of being five years old and listening to it playing on eight track in my uncle's car. I remember thinking how amazing it was that Elton John wrote a song about The Wizard of Oz. Also, why is it impossible to listen to "American Pie" without singing along? David Bowie dying reminds me that all of these singers I grew up with will soon follow suit, which also reminds me that I am getting older and nearer to the end. 70 years old  is not ancient, but it's not like he burned out at 35. The people who are most taken aback by his death (me included) are in part shocked by their own aging. As a kid, I was never a David Bowie fan, or not a fan. I thought he was strange and interesting and a little scary because of his canine teeth and his two different colored eyes. I also recall his movie, The Hunger, was one of the first rated R movies I ever saw on cable television and it scared me, less because of the vampirism and more because of the bisexuality, which I had never before seen dealt with in film.

We're going to see Billy Joel in Madison Square Garden in April, and he's up there in years too. In fact, every time I hear more than three Billy Joel songs in a row on the radio, I assume it's in tribute and that he's dead. 


My first rock and roll concert was Billy Joel, and I went with Wallis Payne, whose mom drove us and stayed on the sidelines. It was for the Innocent Man tour and I bought a concert shirt, the kind with the long thin sleeves under a Flashdance type sweatshirt. I cannot document this moment for you because we did not have Instagram then and so there were no selfies of me and Wallis with our heavily hair sprayed and feathered hair, both in dorky round glasses with slightly pink frames and Bonnie Bell lip gloss. We got all the way up to the top of the stage and I touched his microphone stand, you guys. I thought it not impossible that Billy Joel, in his mid-thirties, several times divorced, might, MIGHT notice me, a 14 year old ninth grader with sausage roll bangs and eyes obscured by thick lenses, and fall in love with me. I could inspire a song, something that would involve the alluring scent of Aqua Net hair spray and Love's Baby soft perfume.

This is the closest I can come to documenting that age. I am sitting to the far right side and Walls is the other girl in the front row with glasses (second in from the left). Next to me is Juli Kleszy, who was also a good friend. We were members of the United Nations Club. I represented Latvia. 
When you think about it, the number of musicians who have made it into their sixties and seventies is unreal. Keith Richards is like a cat--he should by all rights have died a minimum of 25 times. Mick Jagger, Paul Simon, Roger Daltry, the guys from Three Dog Night--all still alive? (Here's another song that requires foot tapping and makes me want to jump up and grab a banana microphone, "Son of a Preacher Man"). Simon and Garfunkel's "The Boxer" is next; where are musical duos like them now? Every song is melancholy, tells a story, and makes you feel like you're on a bus looking at wheat fields streak by as you travel at high speed away from the one you love.

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