I was humbled to be the first spokesperson on BBC breakfast television last week after the news broke of David Bowies death. It wasn’t a position I felt I wanted or deserved to be in and yet there I was.
The press wanting to respond to the story and a quick web search had found my novel ‘Life on Mars’ inspired by his work. In the days afterwards a reader had pointed out to me the irony of the first page. It depicts the main character with a terminal illness and was written around 18 months ago. All in complete ignorance of future events and is clearly inspired by David Bowie.
The news of his death had broken around an hour before and the USA had yet to wake up to it, UK social media was buzzing with rumours first thing. Before the news was able to sink in I was on live national TV on behalf of Bowie fans across the world.
In the heat of that moment I mentioned that the death of anyone in the public eye was like clicking of a cog, and how the world changes just a click at a time. What I meant was, in a way the world we live in changes ever so slightly when we lose someone either in the public eye or privately. Across history its the tiniest click in a single direction but they all add up. Bit by bit over time until one day we find ourselves in a different world with different hero’s, villains and allies.
David Bowie was someone we always expected and knew would be there. Unlike many aging artists he was producing right up to his death at 69 and it looks likely he will do so beyond that. If you are 50 years old or less then there has always been a David Bowie to love, hate or be annoyed and frustrated by. He was not just a part of musical culture but world culture.
In that respect he is like any other celebrity in that we all feel like we own a piece of him, he is ours and we know him. Theres nothing wrong with that but it struck me a few days after his death that I might want to accept that I didn’t own any part of him.
To someone he was a loving husband, father or friend. If theres one thing I had to try and consciously understand it was that like millions of others I may have loved his role, his performance or public persona. In truth I recognised that to those who knew the real human being its very different. They were the friends and family who have been through a long and difficult illness knowing the inevitable truth was just around the corner.
I hope those people stay strong.
As for the rest of us I suppose we will have to come to terms with the fact that the cogs have just shifted forward one more click, maybe even twice and the world we know has changed again, a lot more than it usually does in these circumstances.

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