I don't have a story about the first time I heard a David Bowie song, I think I was too young to realize the impact his music would have as I grew. I do remember my mom singing along to songs like "All the Young Dudes" in the car when I was in grade school, and I do remember growing older and discovering Bowie in my own way as a teenager. I remember spending my allowance money buying albums like "Diamond Dogs" and "Reality." I remember checking out the Berlin Trilogy from my public library. I remember learning all the words to all the songs, learning that weird is cool, and learning lessons about gender and sexuality that remain important today. And, of course, I remember this...
As an adult, Bowie's work took on new, grown-up meanings and I continued to learn from his work. Since becoming a museum professional, I've enjoyed seeing his career interpreted and memorialized. I was fortunate enough to see the exhibit "David Bowie Is" in its original installation at the Victoria and Albert Museum in London on a work trip (and may have cried at the end!). Living near Chicago, I also got to see the exhibit at its only US venue at the Museum of Contemporary Art in Chicago. On a recent trip to the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame and Museum, where I was a curatorial intern in undergrad, I searched the museum for all the Bowie objects and interpretation. Bowie's body of work was now something I could study and appreciate on another level as a curator and museum lover.
After a lifetime of loving Bowie, the news of his passing came as an unexpected shock. As the news sunk in, it began to feel more like losing an old friend than losing a famous musician. I let Bowie's work into my life on a very personal level, and that work had an impact on the person I became. In the days that followed, I listened to my favorite songs, like "Sound and Vision," and I listened to "Blackstar."
As a parting gift, "Blackstar" is more than any of us, as fans, could have asked for. I've been listening to it on repeat since his passing, starting to understand it in my own way. I'm sure that as I continue to grow, the album's meaning will evolve to me, just like the Bowie songs I listened to in grade school changed as I became an adult.
I've had an idea for a while to make a series of music inspired mini quilts the size of LP covers to hang above my record player at home. "Blackstar" is the first of these minis that I'm calling Vinyl Quilts. I'll write more about the Vinyl Quilts soon, and I'm already making the second one. But for now, making this "Blackstar" mini has helped me remember a musician who meant so much to me.
Buy "Blackstar." Buy all the albums if you don't have them. And if you want to read one of the best things I've ever read, check out Jemaine Clement's article on writing my personal favorite Bowie tribute, the Flight of the Conchords song and episode "Bowie."
Stay tuned for more Vinyl Quilts coming soon! -Laura