Everybody by now knows that David Bowie has died. And everybody knows this was a global event. Everything that can be written about Bowie by now probably has. I don’t have much to add, anyway.

One string of questions keeps going through my mind though: Who expected the outpouring of love, respect and grief that Bowie’s death caused? Who has caused that level of mourning before? Who will do so in the future? And what is the quality that these people possess?

Within my lifetime, the standout people that have died and led to outpourings of grief are Steve Jobs and Princess Diana. I felt no grief for either and still get a bit irritated about their effect on people. It isn’t jealousy, I bear no ill will to either. I just get annoyed that people loved them. I did not.

I see what was there. Diana managed to convince the British, and later global, public that a “commoner” could enter royalty. After divorce, she became the underdog until her death, when she inspired conspiracy theories (yawn). Jobs, meanwhile, played an instrumental part in the IT revolution we are now experiencing. But I always felt Evgeny Morozov got his character down better than our popular consciousness ever managed to.

Bowie, though, was different. At least for me. He represents something a little like a superhero. I feel shocked by his death because he felt transcendent of us all, immortal. His body of work led to me feeling like that. All the generations of my family love him. My grandmother remembers her daughter’s loud music, and how she learned to love some of his more accessible tunes. My mother and father remember being there at the time, seeing the effect Bowie had on their peers, and feeling and sharing it themselves. I just don’t remember life without Bowie. He was there and he was good. As I got older, I listened to his records more carefully and found a lot of value in them. And now he is dead.

Who remains in our cultural royalty after Bowie? Who commands the respect Bowie did? Who has his back catalog? Some people have to have the credentials to match Bowie’s, surely? So who are these people? Bob Dylan? Quentin Tarantino? Madonna? Dr. Dre? Thom Yorke?

If Bowie is irreplaceable, what does that tell us about our culture and the place we have arrived at? Is it an Internet thing? Do our stars no longer have the cultural power they once had? I don’t know, but life without Bowie is strange, the reaction to his death was strange, and that huge gap he has left behind is strangest of all.

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