It’s something we often forget, as we remember the superstars who pass away, that their contemporaries are still with us. Not only that, but at times we forget just who their contemporaries really are.
You know what it’s like, I’d walked into town to the dentists, and then before I walked back, having bought train tickets and been to the building society and done all sorts of other stuff as well, I decided I could do with a coffee.
I looked round for a seat and noticed there was an arm chair in one corner. It was hidden behind a group of elderly ladies who had put two tables together and were sitting around them. I guess there was probably eight or ten of them at any one time, a floating conclave, some going, some arriving.
Anyway I got my coffee (Large salt caramel cappuccino if you’re buying) and took a seat. Well we internationally renowned authors are supposed to spend our time in coffee shops soaking up the atmosphere aren’t we?
But I couldn’t help overhearing the talk of the ladies next to me. What got my ears twitching was the comment made by one, “Yes, I liked his music.”
Their conversation had stopped with David Bowie, who they all liked, certainly his earlier stuff. Then some mentioned ‘Lemmy’ Kilmister, John Lennon even came into the conversation. They were dismissive of the gossip, of the wives and ex-girlfriends and hangers-on telling their story. They clung to the real artist, the man and his music.
And I looked at them. My guess is that they were all between sixty-five and seventy-five. All retired. There was no grief at David Bowie’s passing. These are ladies who have buried marriages, husbands, children, and other loved ones. They know what grief is. But for David Bowie they felt a little sorrow which was all the more moving because it was sincere.
And I saw the white hair (because round here they don’t do ‘blue rinse’) and the lined faces and sensible clothes, and somehow I saw the girls in their short skirts and make-up and mothers telling them “You’re not going out like that, what would your father say.”
And in ten years half of them will be dead or in nursing homes, (because this isn’t Islington, we’re ordinary working class people round here and have ordinary working class life expectancy) and the memories will have gone.
And it struck me that if we really want to sum up the achievements of a man like Bowie, forget the hype, just listen to the gentle sorrow at his passing in the voices of a bunch of lasses who have carried a little bit of his music in their hearts for nearly fifty years.