It’s been five days since we learned of David Bowie’s death. I’d bet that no matter where you’re traveling these days, except maybe the desert, you’d hear his music streaming from a radio, iPod, or some other device. And even in the desert, someone just might surprise you with a ring tone delivering a few chords from a Bowie song.
Wanderer. Outsider. Misfit. Changeling. If at any time in your life you identified with any of those labels than his music struck a chord for you. That’s why so many people around the planet are still in a bit of shock grieving his loss these few days later. I don’t think that’s going to subside anytime soon. I keep thinking of the old jazz standard There Will Never Be Another You when it comes to this man. That tune has traveled through time as well.
Walking through my neighborhood in Brooklyn or on the streets of Manhattan, Bowie’s music blares from boutiques and bars, delis and donut shops. Quotes from his songs are displayed on café blackboards. We just can’t let the man go.
Stepping down onto the subway platform this morning on my way to work I heard a musician strumming the opening chords to a song. Even with the rumbling of the train that had just pulled out of the station I could name that tune. It was Space Oddity and while I was already late for work I was willing to let a few trains go by just to enjoy the entire performance and get close to Major Tom.
It was a gravelly and low and lovely rendition. I threw a buck into the guy’s cardboard box and soaked it all in. I wasn’t the only one. A few commuters had gravitated near the music and for a few brief moments it kind of felt like a state of grace had fallen on the gritty subway platform. Like we were anywhere but within the bowels of the New York City subway system.
Magically, and weirdly, I did not have to let a few trains go by because not one appeared until the guitarist played the closing chords. All of us listeners got to soak up the full benefit.
That was lovely, I told him and asked his name. Jessel, he said. Then he wished me a beautiful day while others shouted “really beautiful” and “thank you” to him. Dollar bills fluttered into his box before we packed into the tin can that jolted us out of that reverie, jettisoning us into the city towards the reality of the daily grind.
That’s the great thing about music. Like travel, it’s takes us places, lodges itself in our memory bank, gives us refuge. That’s the thing about Bowie. No matter where you are, he can still take you out of this world. No ticket required.
This is incredibly kind of you. Thank you. Your writing is highly evocative and imaginative. I am hoping to print out some more copies of a recent five song EP that I recorded consisting of four covers plus one original. I don’t sell it as it’s mainly cover songs and I would love to get you a copy if we are able to run into each other sometime at the seventh avenue stop where it was recorded live. The Bowie song is not on this EP but I plan to record it in the near future for a volume 2 EP. I had so many requests from my subway friends to record some of my cover songs and I just decided I had no choice but to give the people what they want. I sent the your page to my close friends. Can I also use the photo if I credit you at all times? Cheers.
By all means use the photo. I’ll introduce myself next time I hear you by the tracks!
Yikes. I’m so sorry I got your name wrong initially. I would edit it if possible.