By Chyrisse Tabone, Rock At Night Tampa Correspondent in London
Brixton, London–January 11, 2016
It was around 8 a.m. London time when I woke on Monday morning of January 11, 2016 to the sad and shocking news of David Bowie’s passing. I just happened to turn on my Blackberry Playbook and saw a posting on Facebook. Disbelief was my first reaction. I wondered if it were just a rumor until a Tweet from Bowie’s son, Duncan Jones, confirmed the sad truth.
I had read Rolling Stone’s interview with Bowie on his new album Blackstar, which was just released on Friday, January 8th. . The release coincided with Bowie’s 69th birthday. My thoughts then flashed back to Lemmy’s recent passing after his birthday.
My thoughts on David Bowie and a chronology of his career flashed in my mind. I can picture my own youth and life journey in terms of his songs. I remember as a kid when he came out with “Space Oddity” and the whole glam rock/androgynous look. “Fame”, “Changes”, and “Under Pressure” make me think of junior high and high school while “Let’s Dance” clearly brings memories of dancing with my red ballet slipper shoes and frilly ankle socks. “Modern Love” reminds me of hanging out with my sister at clubs and the list goes on and on. There are way too many memories of singing and dancing to his songs, knowing so many girls (and guys) who were totally Bowie freaks—emulating him. He was just always so cool, edgy, and beat his own drum. He was often copied but was truly an original entity who changed his look, style, and direction ahead of the curve.
I had seen on the BBC in the morning that people were laying flowers and mementos near the David Bowie mural on Morley’s Department Store’s wall near the Brixton Underground station. I was down in Tooting Broadway in the afternoon and wanted to swing by the memorial but it was raining hard. By the time I ventured down to Brixton around 8:30 p.m., I noticed others making the pilgrimage. An American musician and his son were riding the train and I later noticed a news reporter interviewing the man near the shrine. He said he was on vacation in London but after hearing the news he had to pay his respects.
As soon as I got off at the Brixton terminal I observed a few teenage boys going up the escalator and singing “Star Man” at the top of their lungs. As we all reached the top of the escalator, I noticed a large crowd of people gathering across the street. People were pushing toward the makeshift shrine and David Bowie mural, trying to catch a glimpse and taking cell phone photos. A few TV news reporters were capturing the events and speaking with fans. There was a small group off to the side of the mural who were singing and chanting. One young blond man, who seemed to be the ringleader, was wearing eye make-up, eyeliner, large hoop earrings, and playing an acoustic guitar. The mass crowd soon followed with the words to “Jean Genie”.
As I got closer to the shrine, the crowd started singing “Space Oddity” and that is when I felt the tears flowing down my cheek. As I got closer to the shrine I could see personal notes people left, photos, album and magazine covers, and song lists.
I was not the only one moved with emotion. A guy with stretchy bright leotards and glam rock attire had visible tears and later asked to be photographed while posing against the mural with his arms out-stretched. Later, a woman with dreadlocks plastered herself against the mural, covering the artwork. The crowd started to chant “get her off, get her off” when a security person began to remove her. She started to kiss the wall and reluctantly moved away.
The whole evening was sad, surreal, and one I will not forget. I am so thankful I was there to pay my respects to this wonderful, unique artist, musician, actor, and culture icon who meant so much to me and all of us who struggled with being different. David Bowie was an original like no other—truly a creative genius, entertainer, actor, and artist.
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