BBC Radios 2 and 4 both have a regular slot about inheritance tracks – where people discuss music they inherited from their parents and discuss their influences. I really love hearing about things like this. It would be so tempting and lovely to write today that my own inheritance tracks include David Bowie, but they don’t. Nevertheless, among the distracted thoughts that flitted through my mind today, I did wonder how best to pass on some great tracks to E that she might learn to love and appreciate.
She currently lives in a household that plays BBC 6 Music constantly (except Saturdays) and Classic FM at bathtime. Sometimes she responds to the music she hears (this weekend I taught her the chorus to Buffalo Stance) and sometimes she doesn’t. I don’t know what age children get to before they start to want to go and find their own thing but I’ll only be able to influence the music played in the house for so long. And that’s as it should be.
While my parents weren’t massive Bowie fans, they nevertheless managed to pass on a nice range of music tastes to me. My inheritance tracks include Motown, Hollywood musicals, Roy Orbison, Kenny Rogers and the William Tell Overture. We had Radio 1 on all the time when I grew up, I defended the BBC to my friends who all listened to local commercial radio. Like all 80s kids I taped the charts. I listened to music all the time while I did my homework. But I also remember my friends and I discovering music for ourselves, wrestling some of it away from our parents’ generation. At 14 we passed round Beatles tapes. At 17 a friend came into the library, passed me her earphones and pressed play. I heard Tom Waits’s voice for the first time and thought “what the hell?”
What can I pass on to E? Bruce Springsteen, Kate Bush and David Bowie.
Bowie’s an interesting one because he transcends generations. Of all the tributes today, the ones that are the most touching come from the kids who looked up to him because they were different, and so was he. And he made that ok. It’s the kind of thing you want to pass on to your children – I want E to be different, to stand out, to not be afraid. What better role model?
I heard the news this morning while standing at the tram stop in the dark, waiting to go to work. While I was a fan of his, I would never have described myself as a massive fan. I didn’t have all the albums. But there I was on the tram, desperately upset. Somewhere you realise the influence has had more of an effect than you thought. I was reminded of my 16-year old self, standing in the dark at the bus stop in 1991 crying to Radio 1 as they played Bohemian Rhapsody following the announcement of Freddie Mercury’s death.
What I hope E finds in her generation is someone like this. What I liked best about Bowie was even when he was the coolest person on the planet, if you watch some of his performances (there’ll be loads on BBC4 in the coming weeks I imagine,) you see someone having an enormous amount of fun. He made it human, he made it look like he was just as amazed as you were, even when he looked like an alien. The same with Freddie.
I hope I can pass these kind of feelings onto E. I hope she experiences live music and is transcended by it. I hope E finds her own moment that she knows exactly where she was when it happened. I hope she knows what it’s like to be touched by someone she’s never met. I hope she knows that it’s ok to grieve for that person when they die, despite never having met them. I hope she has a moment where she sits back, like me this morning or in November 1991, and regrets never having seen someone play live. But I definitely hope she has a moment, like I did when Clarence Clemons died (the last time I wept over a dead musician) and thinks I was there and it was beautiful.
Thank you David Ziggy Bowie, you immortal you. They’ve come to take you home.