On January 10th last year, I was devastated when I read that David Bowie had passed away.
He hadn’t been in the forefront of my mind recently, but his death hit me like a ton of bricks. I was despondent. I felt the sadness from a deep place I hadn’t realized was there.
I was the music teacher at a preschool and had to show up to teach music the following morning. Even before I pulled up to park, I had already decided we were going to listen to David Bowie all morning. To do anything else wasn’t even an option.
The first couple of classes were two-year-olds. We danced around to Space Oddity, China Girl, Let’s Dance, and Life on Mars with rhythm instruments, shaker eggs, and scarves. There was something beautiful about celebrating someone who had just left this world with those who had just arrived. It didn’t even matter that they had no idea who David Bowie was, or that the world was in a state of shock and grief. They were just happy to dance.
After the two-year-olds, came the three to five-year-olds classes. At some point that morning, the idea had popped into my head to find a picture of David Bowie that they could color. I searched via Google and found a coloring sheet with his face on it, and printed out about 30 of them.
We spent music class listening to his music and coloring his picture. I may have mentioned that he had passed away the day before. I can’t even really remember but even if it was mentioned, it was just acknowledged and accepted. Such is the innocence of children.
Every picture was different. One of the kids made a Spiderman Bowie. Another insisted on making him a woman, giving him lipstick. Perfect for someone who had embodied so many different personas and constantly reinvented themselves, beyond any barriers or cultural mores. They came up with this completely on their own—again, beautifully and heartbreakingly innocent.
I had no idea that day that just a week later, Glenn Frey of The Eagles would also depart this world, and 10 days after that, Paul Kantner of Jefferson Airplane would follow. Merle Haggard, Prince, Maurice White, Keith Emerson…too many to list here. We colored pictures for them, too.
For me, that day, January 11th, set the tone of how I was going to handle losing so many music legends and heroes, people who inspired me, and filled me with love and passion for music. Because that’s what they were. Whether they were celebrities or not—that has nothing do with it. They didn’t become musicians because they were famous. They became famous because they were musicians. And music speaks to us on a deep level—deep, deep level.
So when I was so distraught and heartbroken, I turned to the innocence of children and to art. They saved me that day when I was ready to completely fall apart.
They saved me also on November 13th, 2015 when Paris was attacked. We listened to Francis Cabrel and some children made hearts out of paper, for no reason other than to make hearts out of paper. This is the the second verse of the song I wrote the following day, J’adore la France.
Je me tourne vers les enfants pour m’inspirer
Leur innocence si saint et merveilleux
Me gardent a l’abri de désespoir
Alors que je me sens la lourdeur de la misère
I look to the children to inspire me
Their innocence so holy and wondrous
They keep me safe from despair
While I feel the heaviness of misery
As David Bowie said in Starman, “Let all the children boogie.”
Author: Victor Johnson
Image: Author’s Own & Craniodsgn / Deviantart
Editor: Sara Kärpänen