The Thin White Duke. Ziggy Stardust. David Jones.
He had several names and many more faces throughout his career, but most of us knew him as David Bowie. Whether your first exposure to him was as musician Bowie or actor Bowie depended partly upon your parents' willingness to subject you to Labyrinth as a child and/or your own musical awakening during high school. As for myself, I came to his work through my favorite band, Stone Temple Pilots.
Many years ago, when MTV Unplugged was a (glorious) thing, STP had their own episode, and part of it ended up cut from the broadcast, though it lived on in bootlegs, pre-iTunes but post-Napster. This was a live cover of "Andy Warhol." As soon as I learned that David Bowie was the original artist, I booked it over to the store and snapped up a copy of Hunky Dory. That was the day I fell in love.
Bowie speaks to adolescents in particular because he was weird. This isn't a bad thing, but it's the most accurate word for him. As the saying goes, he let his freak flag fly, and with every iteration of himself that he presented to the world, he touched some misfit somewhere, from the streets of London to suburban Detroit and everywhere else around the world.
I was fortunate enough to see him live in concert in January 2004, during my senior year of high school. He was touring in support of Reality and played at the Palace of Auburn Hills (home of the Detroit Pistons). The seats weren't great, but I was as enthusiastic as I've ever been, and with good reason: that show remains the best performance I've ever seen, even 12 years later. I also feel lucky, because time proved that this run of dates made up his final trip around the world as a touring artist.
At the concert, I bought a poster that I've had ever since. It's lived with me in Michigan, in North Carolina, and now in Louisiana. Right before I left home to come here, I went on a rampage through the house, desperately trying to locate said poster; I knew I couldn't live without it, because I feel like it's part of what makes my space my own.
He's been watching over me since I was a teenager, and I hope he never stops.