thank you david bowie thank you...

David Bowie is gone - just three days after his most recent record release - damn, but life is just too freakin' short to take anything for granted, yes? I remember back in 1972 hearing two songs that just unglued me: I loved them AND they creeped me out but I didn't know why. The first was Mott the Hoople's break-out song, "All the Young Dudes" that was written by David Bowie. He wrote it for the band after they turned down his "Suffragette City." which is one of my all-time favorites along with "Rebel, Rebel." 

This was the glam rock period when T-Rex was tramping it up alongside the New York Dolls, Alice Cooper and Roxy Music. For the first time in my life I was checking-out guys whose music I loved to hear but they were all tarted-up in mascara, glitter and huge platform shoes. This did not compute! Part of my uncritical, naive religious self thought our culture was just moments away from full tilt Sodom and Gomorrah. I mean, these guys were so decadent and they didn't act anything like the Stones, the Yardbirds or the Dead. They didn't give a shit and - this was the unsettling part for me - they were so wild ass in their new rock and roll stylings and exhibited such freedom that I was drawn to them in spite of my homophobia. And OMG was this ever true in spades when  St. Lou Reed released the other 1972 killer song:  "Walk On the Wild Side."

I had appreciated Lou during his Velvet Underground phase but had NO idea of what to make of his androgynous thing on "Transformer." I didn't know if it was frightening or sexy - or both - and I was freaked-out even more when I learned that Bowie had produced St. Lou's album. He made certain that Mott opened it with "Sweet Jane," too. Talk about a rock and roll dilemma. I remember telling my girlfriend at the time that all this gender-bending rock was more than a little weird to me.  She listened and smiled - well aware of my metro tendencies light years before myself - and then said, "Yeah, but you sure love to dance to these guys, don't you?" And, of course, she was right. Bowie still frightened me but I dug his music.

Now here's the thing for me: I didn't consciously know any gay guys or girls. Life was way in the closet. There was a young, sensitive film maker in high school who took his life in our junior year and the shit on the street was that he was queer. But nobody really talked about it. I knew one other young, gay artist in high school who tried to kill himself, too but thankfully he failed. In my circle of friends homosexuality was too underground in 1968 for a straight, white rock and roll boy from the 'burbs. It wasn't until 1975 that I had my first long talk with an openly gay man who was on my staff.with the farm workers in LA. He'd gotten busted by the cops in a set-up. And after he got out, we talked and wept together for most of one night as he told me what it was like to be a gay dancer in a harsh and unforgiving world. He opened my eyes. And as we worked together on the Proposition 14 campaign we became friends. 

Earlier today, a journalist I value, Cathleen Falsani Possley, posted this note - and it brings everything together for me as I grieve the passing of David Bowie tonight. She wrote:

When in doubt, listen to David Bowie! In 1968 Bowie was a gay, ginger, bonk-eyed, snaggle toothed freak walking around South London in a dress being shouted at by thugs. Four years later, he was still exactly that - but everyone else wanted to be like him, too. If David Bowie can make being David Bowie cool, you can make being yourself cool. PLUS, unlike David Bowie, you get to listen to David Bowie for inspiration. So, you're already one up on him, really. YOU ARE AHEAD OF DAVID BOWIE!

This cat's music touched my heart and made me shake my bootie. This man's courage helped me listen more carefully and shut my mouth when I didn't understand another's sexuality. And, truth be told, Bowie helped me open my life to my own mysterious and God-given sexuality and spirituality in ways that would have been impossible without him. He was creepy sometimes. He was a total outsider who invited me to trust God a little bit more and "love the stranger" who was always more like myself than I could comprehend.

I wept this morning upon hearing that Brother Bowie had gone home.  And then I heard this song and sensed that the music had just shifted to another level. Thanks for ALL the blessings, David Bowie - the hard ones, the challenges, the joy and the wisdom - and rest in peace, good and faithful servant, rest in peace.

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