After the shock and the grief comes inevitably the rage. So it was on Monday when David Bowie’s death was announced. It didn’t take long before the outpouring of grief was greeted with puzzlement, then anger. By some. Why are you crying, came a few jeers on Twitter and Facebook. Not like you knew him. Not like you were part of his family or a friend. He didn’t know you. So why d’you care? Same question could be asked of those bothering to tweet in the face of others’ grief though couldn’t it? Why do they care so much? What’s it to do with them? For feelings are never right or wrong. They just are.
My own reaction caught me by surprise. Long before I saw the sadness all over my Facebook and Twitter timelines I was in tears and playing some of my favourite Bowie tracks. Maybe it’s easier for me in some ways because I come from a music-loving family and I’m used to this. I remember my father weeping when his hero Duke Ellington died in 1974. My dad has Took the A train on his grave. My mum wept for Bing Crosby and they both cried when Frank Sinatra died. My dad did actually get to meet the great Duke and I still have the programme he signed for him after a show in London. I’m so glad he got a chance to meet his hero.
I remember Hendrix dying, Marc Bolan’s tragic death and Lennon’s murder. And more recently Amy Winehouse’s death saddened me deeply because there was so much promise and hope of more incredible music to come. If someone meant a lot to you, if they spoke to you through their music or other kind of art, then it does feel personal and it clearly does feel this way to millions across the world when we heard the news about Bowie.
A fan’s pain is obviously not the same as family or friends of the star who’s died. And few of us would be crass enough to claim it as such. But fans form their own family. Being a fan gives you a sense of belonging. Loving the same music as someone else is a connection even if you have absolutely nothing else in common. It’s the same with football, and to some extent books, plays, films and even TV shows. Music I think though is special. It cuts through everything else. It hits us right where we live. It’s the soundtrack to our lives, the tracks of our years and for many of us Bowie’s music is instant time travel back to our youth.
Yes we might be crying a bit for our own very real losses – the loss of our youth, the growing sense of our mortality. Or the memory of a family member or friend whom we were genuinely close to and who we’ve lost. All losses link up together and sometimes it’s easier to cry with others about a performer who’s died when really our tears pour out of us because it reminds me of crying at the graveside of mum, dad, a brother, sister, uncle, aunt, cousin, gran or friend.
Grief is like a string of pearls a counsellor once told me for one of my articles. They’re all part of the same chain and when one is set off for whatever reason, they all join up.
In the end though, does it really matter? If you feel grief, if you feel sad, then you do. It just is. Feelings can’t be right or wrong. They’re just feelings. Be glad you can feel. Never dismiss emotion. Because if you can feel real pain, grief and sorrow then you can feel happiness, joy and exuberance too.
Photo credit: Fiona Young, Brixton, London.