To most people the passing of David Bowie, and now Alan Rickman, won’t mean a thing. They’ll simply be faces that show up on a screen during an “In Memoriam” montage that appears during an awards show. Mere flickers of lives that passed too quickly.
For me, their deaths means so much more. No, I didn’t know them personally, but their talent touched me deeply. And while it would be easy to sob as I listen to David Bowie’s music (which I did in the car yesterday), or cringe as I see the Twitter posts, one after the other, herald Severus Snape himself, for me their deaths mark the loss of true artistic genius.
I first heard David Bowie’s entrancing voice when I was very young. My older siblings were driving me to the beach near our home in California and the “alien-like” opening to “Ashes to Ashes” echoed through the car. It’s a memory vividly stamped in my brain. The bright summer sunshine beating on my face as the strains of Bowie’s voice filled my ears in an odd, yet melodic, way.
Years later, I’d been struck by David Bowie’s genius again when he practically became the poster child for the earliest incarnation of MTV (when they actually played music). I’ll never forget watching the video for “China Girl” for the first time and being glued to the couch as Bowie raced across the screen in that dark suit, grabbed the girl, and kissed her right in the street while noodles flew through the air. Strange, but compelling as well. “Modern Love” and “Let’s Dance” along with “China Girl” were on constant repeat for me that summer. Now I can’t listen to any of those songs and not be transported back to my childhood.
As for Alan Rickman, the news is still too fresh for me to really comprehend. I suppose his death won’t hit me until I watch the first Harry Potter again and realize he’s truly gone. My history with Mr. Rickman is just as long as it is with Bowie’s. The first time I encountered his genius was in the movie, “Die Hard”. When he appeared on screen I instantly knew his villain was going to be delicious. His combination of snark and sharp wit struck me, and by the end of the movie I wanted to see him on screen more than the star, Bruce Willis. That snark and wit continued on in Robin Hood, Prince of Thieves, where again I wanted more screen time for him than Kevin Costner. No matter the film, Rickman took charge and it was easy to forget every other actor except him.
When Rickman was cast as Severus Snape I literally shouted for joy. I’ve never been shy about telling people he’s my favorite Harry Potter character. I vividly remember the moment he appeared in “The Sorcerer’s Stone” sitting at the teacher’s table in the banquet hall, his beady eyes focused on Dan Radcliffe. To be honest, I think I might have actually squealed with excitement. He was without a doubt the perfect embodiment of a character I’d grown to love.
Just recently, I watched Mr. Rickman in a small indie film about a famous bar in New York known as CBGB, which is heralded as being the birthplace of Punk music. The movie wasn’t so great, but Rickman’s performance elevated the film. When he appeared on screen I was reminded again of how he can crawl into the soul of a character and make him feel real.
I’ll be sad for the next couple of days as I play my Bowie music, and most likely watch my favorite Alan Rickman films, but I’m comforted by the fact that both men will still live on. Kids now are finding Bowie’s earliest recordings and loving the magic of it all. And me, along with countless others, will continue to watch and get lost in Alan Rickman’s many great performances. Yes, it’s sad to think that we will see nothing new from these two men, but I’m comforted by the fact that their talents will continue to touch future generations.
Godspeed, gentlemen and thank you for sharing your gifts with the world. Heaven is a very full and blessed place today.