“…and the stars look very different today”
Absolutely. Spot-on. Bloody-well-right.
Today, The Earth looks greyer, bleaker, darker, and colder. The coffee tastes more bitter, the river waters look brown. Every day until now you have been here to show us the strange, twisted beauty in these supposed shortcomings…but now you’re gone, and what once seemed beautifully ugly now just seems ugly.
For the whole world, you were a myth and an enigma. You were X and Y; positive and negative. I am too young to have been witness to your heyday, but I can only imagine the thunderclap your arrival must have unleashed. Rock and roll could be installation art – who’d have thought?
You were the original dress made out of meat; the celebrity sleeping in a Plexiglas box.
Opaque as all of that sounds, you still stood outside the art galleries and held the doors open…a welcome smile on your face towards any passer-by that might want to step inside and witness something wonderful. To them you offered up the sweet and the succulent – the dishes that always have people wanting seconds. For them, you created “Space Oddity”, “Changes”, “Fame”, “Heroes”…all with catchy choruses and lovely changes. But like a studied painter and a giving teacher, you didn’t stop there. You showed them new things, scarier things.
You showed them parts of humanity they might otherwise not have understood. Hell, you showed them parts of themselves they might not otherwise have understood. That takes a high amount of love, and infinite patience. You came armed with both, and for that we are forever in your debt.
I will never forget the moment you came into my life in-earnest. I was 19 years old, and a girl I barely knew asked me if I wanted to accompany her to one of your shows. For several years I’d played your songs, and been awed by your persona, but this was the first chance I ever would be privy to the full-effect of your work. The evening itself seemed apropos of your music: it was joyous, sexy, spontaneous, fortuitous, a celebration of the moment.
Like your presence on this planet, the evening was also fleeting.
Your gift to us lowly earthlings was song after beautiful song intricately designed for us to love them. Each one seemed to speak a language we didn’t think we understood, and yet to hear you speak it, we realized we always did. The clever play was to make us believe we didn’t care for a few of them…but inevitably, someone somewhere would play them for us at just the right time…and we’d realize that we truly did care for them. A great deal in-fact.
You knew what we wanted more than we did.
On this cold winter morning, the deepest chill surrounding your departure is the timing. It’s the bitterest pill to swallow; the hardest song to dance to. Eleven years ago or so, you slipped away from us all. You became reclusive, aloof. Sightings of you were reported in spaces usually dedicated to Roswell activity, or goings-on of The Loch Ness Monster. Many of us wondered where our Thin White Duke had gone; nobody knew for certain. For almost an entire decade we waited and wondered, slowly believing that we might never hear from you again.
Looking back now, the answer may have presented itself…the only twist being that for a man who was always so open and provocative, you closed inward at your most personal moment. Maybe that too was something for us to remember, something to cling to. Another song or another style. The very concept that in an age when we all seem to want to share every last personal feeling, that there are some things best experienced with only those we love and trust most.
And yes I understand the irony of publishing that thought – I learned about irony from you.
But then, as quickly as you vanished – you returned! Ten years later there you were, as if you never left. A new album, new songs. Weird, arty, kooky videos to go along with them. It was as if you never left. We played that new work and it felt like slipping into an old sexy number from our wardrobe…except for the women that loved you, that number was a suit and tie; for the dudes, a slinky dress.
Eighteen months later, more music. It was as if you never left. You sat there with a wry smile, the person at the end of the table who had been silent all night and now wouldn’t shut-up. It was like a cosmic joke…and a really good one.
That’s the rub today, the hardest part to handle. After being so deeply affected by your work in my formative years, I slowly resigned myself to your loss, jubilantly celebrated your return, and now have to accept your permanent exit.
But like so much of what you did, there is art and meaning in this too. So as I have studied, smiled, and wept at the news of your final number, I think I have found its meaning…or at least the meaning that will make it hurt a little less.
For the rest of my life, I will hold your return and departure close to me as a parable, and treasure it as I treasure every note of your music. I understand now that every moment with those we love must be cherished…because sometimes they’re just dropping-in to say goodbye.