David Bowie died a couple of weeks ago. Glenn Frey died the following week. It was so hard to believe that such strong musical influences in my life were gone. Not that there hadn’t been such losses before. Jim Morrison, Bob Marley and Janis Joplin died far too young but then I was young too. For some reason youth can view the death of an artist through much more romantic eyes. They were tortured souls, they were larger than life. Bowie and Frey grew up with me. They were more like old friends.
Music is such a magical thing. It is the soundtrack of our lives. A song or even a melody can transport me back to that moment when I first heard it and the memories it invokes come up quickly and in sharp relief. I know my children were amused at all of those evenings when I was cooking dinner and playing my music. As I sang and danced with full vigor, they knew I was not really in that kitchen but back in a time and place long gone. But the music is never gone. The music lives on.
I have friends and family who are musicians. My son is a musician as is his girlfriend. I have been surrounded by music my whole life. My children have been surrounded by music their whole lives. I recall nights of impromptu musical concerts with guitars and bongos and whatever other instrument was laying around the house brought into service. I used to sing pretty well when I was younger and had less bad habits. I still sing from the soul but it often comes out scratchy and sometimes off key. Yet I know every single lyric. The poetry always spoke right to me. The emotions were mine to experience. The music was mine to live.
I love the joy one expresses when a favorite song comes on the radio. That long hot summer driving around with my teenage friends, ecstatic that the radio was playing the extended cut of the The Doors “Riders on the Storm”. Bruce Springsteen’s “Lonesome Day” got me through cancer treatment. Lionel Richie’s “All Night Long” brings me back to the first LA apartment my husband and I loved in early in our marriage. Joni Mitchell’s “River” was my homesickness in a far off place.
The night Bowie died, I went into the garage and pulled out the old milk crate of albums I had carried with me for the past 40 years. I was looking for the one album that got me through a very rocky senior year of high school, Bowie’s “Ziggy Stardust and the Spiders from Mars”. When I couldn’t find it, I texted my son to see if he had added it to his growing vinyl collection. He responded that he was just about to play it in Bowie’s honor, did I want it back? No, I responded. I knew it was a fitting tribute to Bowie that the next generation keep his music alive.
The deaths of David Bowie and Glenn Frey has left a hole in the musical and artistic world although the beauty of art is that it lives on far beyond its creators. Music is the universal language that needs no interpretation. There is music in every culture of the human world. There is music in the animal kingdom too. In director Steven Spielberg’s imaginative film “Close Encounters of the Third Kind” music was the way to communicate with the extraterrestrials. I am grateful for all of the music that has moved me through the years of my life. Although I had never had the chance to see Bowie perform live, I was fortunate to catch Glenn Frey and The Eagles on their final tour three years ago. Thanks, David and Glenn, for the music you have left us. Godspeed.