It is a strange thing to react to the news of the death of someone I never knew with the sorrow of someone I loved personally. Yet this surprisingly insistent emptiness is one felt by the millions mourning David Bowie, because the truth is that his voice and sound lived inside each and every one of us with the intimacy of a longstanding correspondence.
There will always be public figures who take with them an intrinsic part of an era and of one's own being. He was one of them, an indisputable influence that thickened the texture of anyone's life from the 1970s onwards. I keep envisioning Antoine Watteau's "Pierrot" and a slight numbness coats all I have to get on with today.
One didn't have to be fanatical to love his work, yet for all of us his modern musical genius sealed the undercurrents of the uneasy darkness of the 1970s, the blousey, big shouldered glamour of the 80s, and the cool, designer-dipped sophistication of the 90s. His songs are as fresh today as they astonished forty years ago.
On the morning of the news of his passing, an archbishop stopped pronouncing, an astronaut beamed a message from outer space, a political correspondent gushed, and a prime minister said, "Hunky Dory", because Bowie touched upon everyone's consciousness, irrespective of how closely-related to or far removed they were from society's norm. And hearing the morning news fade out with "Heroes", I sobbed.
From the haunting sounds of "Space Odyssey" and "Ashes to Ashes", and indelible rings of "Ch-ch-ch-ch-Changes", to the overwhelmingly cool tones of "Let's Dance", "Fashion" and "Young Americans", Bowie was a fantasy; suave, gorgeous and stylish with a beating heart of unconventionality. He reached inside our explorative and questioning selves. And through the ambiguity of different colored eyes and rapaciousness of crooked teeth he pushed creative boundaries, moved the sexually excitable and forever prodded at experimentation. His relevance was eternal, as Rosie Lowry, a 21-year-old fashion photography student, confirmed: "he was just a huge influence on me because without him I wouldn't have had that strength to be whoever I wanted to be".
Surprisingly normal away from the accolades, Bowie once turned up to participate in a private cricket match whose peripheral sanctum, the refreshments tent, I had been invited to. It was summer and Wimbledon's tennis tournament was in full swing a few post codes away. Avidly following a televised match set up for those of us who preferred the racket to the bat, I heard a cheery lilt of estuary behind me ask, "Who's winning?". I finished watching the point before I turned casually to clarify, when my knees buckled and I ran out of saliva to splutter, "Er, it's close." Kitted in cricket whites Bowie looked like a skinny bloke and a kooky lesbian. It was impossible to steady an all-over corporal trembling as we, the privileged but unnamed handful sharing the same space, fought incredulity too. I wonder what my friend who bowled him out five minutes later is thinking right now?
My mother, during an emaciated and unhappy phase in the seventies, cut through swathes of onlookers on city streets with her likeness to him in bright green linen bellbottoms. How many of us wished we could have dropped a few dress sizes and carried off short spiky hair around a pair of cheekbones!
Bowie punched above his weight, literally; the closest he got to pop was "Modern Love" -- "no profession, no religion" -- with the beat of thoughtful insurrection. (A blip with Mick Jagger is all but forgiven). In the early 80s, after what had seemed a brief, quiet interlude away from the musical spotlight, he burst on to the stage, sheathed in a cream-colored double-breasted suit. Straighter-looking with a tad less androgyny, like an early Bonfired Vanity, he launched into "Let's Dance", until his pair of red stilettos took the breath of an assumption away and exhaled once again with a boundary push. Never has the ordinariness of a man been so alchemically transformed into the extraordinary.
Amid non-stop tributes I liked this one from a certain "Bluez Dragonfly": "You're now far above the moon, Planet Earth is blue, And it's all because of you... Good bye David Bowie."
So let our world be momentarily out of joint as we bask in the sadness. And You Tube his songs tonight and you will cry very much, too.