Elegy for David Bowie
SAINT BOWIE: Dedicated to the Orlando victims and their families.
I was planning to release my Elegy for David Bowie today, which I feared would be too late, but I see that the timing is actually just right. This sad week of the massacre in Orlando is a good time to celebrate Bowie, to be consoled by his bravery. Nobody did more to open the pathways to sexual and gender freedom than David. Please share this video.
In this piece of original music for cello, I'm joined by the wonderful Wells Hanley on piano. The recording was mixed by Mark Plati, Bowie's longtime co-producer, music director and friend.
David was a messenger from another realm. The Man Who Fell to Earth wasn't just a movie role. He came from another planet, another space and time in which Freedom is just another part of life. Where being a sexually diverse being is normal and why wouldn't everyone appreciate that? He shared that vision with a planet just beginning to rotate into sexual freedom- when Space Oddity hit the airwaves in 1969, mainstream America was just figuring out that you don't have to be married to have intercourse. David’s being was so far beyond that envelope, somehow representing the entire spectrum of sexual possibility and gender identification, a single flash of his physicality sufficient to convey a huge throb of freedom. As the tweets of the Arab Spring called dissidents to mass demonstrations, David’s body language sent climactic shudders down the spine of Western sexuality, calling us to throw off the tyranny of the heteronormative and gender binary. In his music, he gave the bird to the monolithic shame which obscures our complex sexuality- helping millions to shine a light into previously darkened corners of existence.
What a service he did his adopted planet. Whether we identify as LGBTQ or identify with them, empathizing with their path of freedom, we can appreciate the changes Bowie brought with him to Earth. To live under the dumbed-down version of sexuality and gender provided by the mainstream is to accept a lesser view of ourselves as humans. Without the much deeper, complete view of who we are as sexual beings, we’re forced to settle for a broken mirror. Seeing ourselves through the shards of this pane damages our ability to fully know ourselves. And if the Oracle’s imperative, ‘Know thyself,’ is the key to our well-being, we can never truly be well.
As a teenager silently struggling to recover from sexual abuse and to understand my own place in the sexiverse, David held up a looking glass that was fully whole. I’ve said many times that he saved my life, and I say it again because it’s true. No one in my life was so able to reflect to me the alright-ness of my experience and inner world. And I think this was true for so many hundreds of thousands, largely because of the enforced code of silence and shame around sexual and gender diversity. David penetrated those private places without us even needing to speak of our struggles. Flying his UFO of radio and record, he came right into our worlds and healed us, lightening our burdens and removing our grief. If you want to assess his impact on our culture, just imagine if he hadn't been here; imagine the breadth of personal devastation had he not descended to Earth. Massive worldwide mourning at his death and ascension reflect the impact he had not just on the world of sound, but on the inner world. And to address his impact on sexuality is to address only one facet of his complex and radical impact on society.
So with these words, I bow down to Saint Bowie and I give thanks for his tremendous impact on my life, knowing that his influence will remain forever. The Changes he brought us can never be undone.