Late last night, for a brief moment, all the stars in the night sky dimmed as David Bowie left us earthlings and ascended upward toward the cosmos, where, really, he has always resided. Still the news that we no longer cohabit a planet with him is devastating. But as the initial shock of his loss begins to dovetail into an outpouring of love for one of the most uniquely cherished humans in recorded history, the editorial staff here at The Nerdist wanted to show our boundless appreciation with our own memories of discovering David Bowie, how he taught us to be unabashedly ourselves, and to never stop dancing. Below the Nerdist editors have picked one of their favorite Bowie tracks and shared a personal memory. You can find a Spotify playlist of our favorite songs at the bottom of the post.
I’ve heard Bowie’s songs all my life, but the first time I really heard him was over the loudspeakers in an Old Navy. Not the best venue he’s ever played, but good enough for me. The chorus build-up to “Let’s Dance” kicked in, and as the first chunky, echoed guitar strums were struck, I stopped what I was doing, and I started dancing. My footsteps moved in rhythm as I continued looking around the store. I gyrated awkwardly. There may have been the odd spin. I danced like everyone was watching, something I’ve done only with David Bowie’s help. He helped me embrace the oddity. – Kyle Hill, Science Editor
In a darkened attic bedroom just outside of Dublin, my life changed in just forty minutes and thirty-six seconds. I was a sophomore in high school, visiting what felt like long-lost family members in Ireland, when I wandered into a record store. Out of the corner of my eye, I spied a CD featuring a man with angular, elfin features, clad in a leather jacket posing in way that said both “come hither” and “I am not of this world.” It was David Bowie’s 1977 album Heroes, and I purchased it immediately. When I popped it into my Sony Discman late that night, all I could do was sit there in slack-jawed wonder as each new track filled my ears. The way Bowie balanced sullen, atmospheric instrumentals with a driving sense of positivity and hope was stunning, and the title track, with its story of two lovers meeting at the Berlin Wall, has been on constant rotation ever since. This album not only sent me down a rabbit hole of ravenously seeking out Bowie’s myriad works, but on a mad quixotic quest to seek out that of his collaborators too, from Robert Fripp to Brian Eno and beyond. David Bowie wasn’t just an artist or an icon; he was a gateway to a bottomless well of incredible music and art, and I will be forever grateful for his existence. – Dan Casey, Senior Editor
It feels like David Bowie has always been a part of my life, from a treasured mixtape my dad made my mom when they were still together to when I discovered Ziggy Stardust, glam rock, and his beautiful, weird, lovely alienness that made us all feel like we were not alone. But above all, my biggest Bowie moment is Labyrinth. I watched it over and over again, as a child and a teen and an adult. Like many other childhood films that shaped me, it breathed a dark magic into every fiber of my being, wrapped me up in glitter, and told me, “You are strange and so are we and that is okay.” Bowie was so many things to so many people, a sexual/musical/creative awakening in every possible way. And to me, he was the chillingly seductive Goblin King I dreamt would whisk me off into another world. Dance magic dance, David Bowie. We love you. – Rachel Heine, Editor-in-Chief
When I was about seven, I was in my uncle’s basement, looking through all the various crap he had, and I eventually saw a cassette tape of Aladdin Sane. It’s got a very evocative cover of Bowie’s face all painted up with a lightning bolt. I was at once creeped out and intrigued. My uncle then showed me a tape he had of the Ziggy Stardust concert film, and I was enamored and terrified. Though I was seven then, that feeling never left whenever I listened to any of his music. Chillingly wonderful. – Kyle Anderson, Weekend Editor
When I found out about David Bowie I was a high school sophomore with a volcanic eruption of curly brown hair down to my shoulders. My nickname was “Fro”, and I wore the same shirt virtually every day–it was a white t-shirt with a lemon painted on the chest, and I made it at camp. In short, I was weird, man. On a humid day during summer break, I was holed away in my family’s basement computer room, as I often did, trying to consume as much music as I possibly could, because music was the only thing I knew that I cared about. I came upon Bowie in a backwards way because I was listening to Nirvana’s MTV Unplugged album for the first time when I heard their cover of “The Man Who Sold The World.” That was all I needed. I think I stayed up almost all night trying to find as much of David Bowie’s music as I could in a cruel, pre-streaming era. When I came upon The Rise and Fall of Ziggy Stardust and the Spiders from Mars and heard “Starman” for the first time, I felt caught in a moment of singularity. Of course I was a weird kid with terrible hair. Of course I was obsessed with music. Of course I liked the records I already liked. I found the missing link. It was already laid out for me to find. I liked the fantasy he was an extraterrestrial, but it made me feel safe to know that he was human. – Matt Grosinger, Music Editor
Bowie’s music will always remind me of my time spent living in New York City at art school. There, I was lucky enough to find not only a group of friends, but an entire college made up of outsiders–kids who also wanted to pursue creative fields. Bowie was the perfect soundtrack to our nights spent on rooftops in Brooklyn. I can recall more than one outing at dance nights in the East Village that ended in sing-alongs of “Life on Mars.” For Halloween 2004, I even did my makeup Aladdin Sane-style. When I listen to Bowie’s music, I will always have a fondness for those nights spent with friends in one of my favorite cities. – Michelle Buchman, Social Media Manager
A world like ours will always need David Bowie. We’ll always need access to the far-off kingdom, that cinematic planet from whence he came. Bowie’s symphonies could turn our lives into a movie, and his sincere embrace of who and what he was made us realize that we, all, could be its heroes. Like many, I came to Bowie looking for something cool, only to find something beautiful. With his music, his poetry, his fashion, and his sincerity, he made it beautiful to be in pain, to be in love, to be alone, to be walking down a dirty street, to be strange, to be you. – Michael Arbeiter, East Coast Editor
I’m pretty sure I was born with David Bowie in my blood. Not just because I one day aspire to be a high galactic priestess of total, unabashed self-expression, but because, since I was an infant, his music has spoken to me on some primal level I still don’t wholly understand.
I don’t actually remember this—it was a story from my aunt about how I, as a baby Lutie not yet fully formed, could not stop dancing around my in my carseat to “Let’s Dance” when I was two or three—but it points to the power of his music. (To say nothing of his creativity, politics, humanity, and progressive, embracing nature.)
I refuse to believe David Bowie is capable of dying. His physical form has left us, but I doubt he’d want us to harp on that. Surely, Bowie is waiting to greet us on the other side of this astral plane, beyond the confines of any corporeal form. Death doesn’t come to energy that magnetic—it just explodes across the galaxy and intensifies: creating stars to bring life, love, brilliance to future lifeforms for millennia to come.
Shine on in the next as you did here on Earth, Ziggy. I’ll miss you more than you know. – Alicia Lutes, Managing Editor
Listen to a playlist of our favorite Bowie tracks:
We want to hear your personal memories about discovering David Bowie and about his impact on your life. Please let us know in the comments below, or reach out to us on Twitter.
Featured Image by Masayoshi Sukita