There are many times when celebrity deaths are lamented in social media. I recognize it happened. Maybe post a tweet on it and call it a day. Like recently when Lemmy passed away. Yes, I was a fan and it was a sad day. I recognized it and moved on. Not today.
When we lost Robin Williams to depression and an incurable disease it hit me hard. Dead Poets Society was a huge influence on me when I needed it. I was extremely good at math and physics, but I loved the written word. The performance as well, provided the writing was good. That movie convinced me along with the words of Polonius from Hamlet. To some, they were his only true words of value… “To thine own self be true.”
Robin Williams (in the form of John Keating) was my Captain. “…if you’re more daring, O Captain, My Captain.” David Bowie was my king. No teen growing up in the 80’s wasn’t aware of the movie Labyrinth. And being a multi-classed geek with specialties in drama, choir, gaming and creative writing, Jareth was both siren and muse.
Also in college I spent time doing side jobs as a DJ as well as having a Sunday night radio show on the college station. This meant I had developed an eclectic taste in music long before we had things like Pandora or Spotify to cultivate it. I had metal and rock because I was a kid of the 70’s and 80’s. I had 80’s pop music because I was working every dance the school put on due to my involvement with Student Council. Reggae and funk was introduced to me at my dojo by my Sensei. Punk and Alternative (which a lot of Bowie fell into) was picked up from older siblings of friends, or at the radio station.
I remember the first time I started digging through the vinyl at the station in college. My roommate Doug and I tag-teamed our show. We had similar tastes in music, and while he loved spinning the records, he wasn’t a fan of taking on air. That meant we had time to dig. We found copies of Queen records (A Night at the Opera was a huge one for me), a CD of the Clash’s Greatest Hits (CDs were brand new back then and we only had like a dozen), and copies of Diamond Dogs as well as Scary Monsters and Super Creeps.
To that point, Glass Spider (from Never Let Me Down – his recent release) was on the top of my Bowie list. I knew he had a long career before that, but didn’t have access to it. Thank you liberal arts colleges of America. You offered me more access to the music of tomorrow than I’d had previously. Well the music of today (for that time) and of tomorrow.
We used to play a game. How fast could we scare the guy doing the Christian music show before us out of the station. You’d be surprised some of the things that got him running. Like the Screaming Blue Messiahs song “I Wanna Be A Flintstone.” I can’t remember which, but I distinctly remember wondering how anyone could be freaked out by the Bowie song we played at the intro one week. It may have been Heroes if memory serves.
But here we are twenty five years later. It’s a Monday. And now, cancer has taken family members, friends, my best friend and four legged brother Aladdin… and now it’s taken my King.
I answer this injustice as I did last time. Fuck Cancer.
But I cannot end on that. It focuses on his death, not his life. Let’s end on the note I kept repeating to myself the weeks before and after losing Aladdin. “We all have jobs to do.” For all of us, our job today is… Let’s Dance.