Better late than never: Growing up without David Bowie

Deputy Entertainment Editor

At eight this morning, my husband texted me to say David Bowie died overnight. I responded with a hyperbolic “WHAAAAAAAT?” and returned to my morning routine. A sad event, as is the passing of any famous icon who has permeated our collective pop culture, but nothing to sound the alarm about, I thought. An hour later, I”m sitting in front of my computer, watching my Twitter feed light up with stories and articles about how the late musician changed their lives. I pour over tweets and follow links to tributes peppered with song names I don”t recognize and movies I”ve never heard of. Only “Labyrinth” sticks out as familiar.

I have never felt more disconnected from humanity.

David Bowie was not part of my childhood, he did not help me navigate the awkward weirdness of adolescence. Wrapped in the bubble of conservative Christianity – the kind where the End Times™ were not only happening, they were happening within my lifetime – Bowie fell into ‘Devil” category. A non-entity. When I finally saw “Labyrinth” as a teenager at the urging of friends who couldn”t believe I”d never heard of this film, a vague sense of unease that I was going to Hell for watching the Goblin King warred with my fascination with this androgynous man. To this day I think Sarah chose poorly when she picked Toby over Bowie.

But that was it. David Bowie was the Goblin King. Full stop. Life went on and I got into entertainment coverage for a living. But the pop culture machine only hurtles forward, leaving little time for a breather to go back and rediscover (or even remember) giants of the past. Until something terrible happens to bring the past to the present. Days like today remind me there are so many seminal works I”ve missed by the nature of my upbringing. Pop culture did not begin with old black and white films and then quantum leap forward to 1997.

While writing this article, I”ve been popping in and out of tributes written by everyone from my co-workers to Bowie”s peers. I am in awe at how many lives he touched, how many people he helped through his art, and how his message of being your weird true self resonated today. I”ve also been assured I know two David Bowie songs because I”ve played “Rock Band.” What I”ve been referring to as “The Major Tom song” for years is actually called “Space Oddity” and is sung by David Bowie it appears. But that doesn”t seem like enough. I”ve missed out on decades of David Bowie”s legacy. The least I can do to honor his memory is fix this glaring oversight.

So where do I start?

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