Ziggy did so much more than play guitar.

And so we’ll miss David Bowie, the restless chameleon of music, fashion, performance and identity. In a world that craves originality but seldom finds it, and even more rarely understands what that means, Bowie was genuinely singular.

He wrote the template for personal reinvention and not only made it OK to evolve, but he also made it essential. We all go through ch-ch-ch-ch-changes as we live our lives. Sometimes in our discomfort we hide elements of who we are. But Bowie, who for a time lived in NYC and gave his last live performance here in 2006, publicly and flamboyantly embraced the many facets of his many personae. His experimentation broke musical and social boundaries, and he became a source of endless fascination and adulation — among men and women, straight and gay, young and old, eccentrics and straight arrows, and lovers of all kinds of music. Others followed his lead, but it always seemed more forced.

Bowie’s music was everywhere, part of countless movie and television soundtracks, and his acting graced both films and the stage. His innovativeness seemed to know no bounds. He was the first major artist to release a song only online, which he did in 1996. One year later, he earned $55 million by issuing bonds backed by the revenue to be generated by his earliest albums.
His final record, released on his 69th birthday, two days before his death from cancer on Sunday, was an appropriate goodbye kiss. “Blackstar” is vintage Bowie — in that it was unexpected and, in its jazz orientation, completely different.

There is a certain unreality to his passing. His many selves — from Ziggy Stardust to the Thin White Duke, from Major Tom to Aladdin Sane to Halloween Jack — made him seem immortal. Bowie always would be with us in one form or another. But he had served us notice. Time may change me, he sang, but I can’t trace time.

Turn and face the strange, he advised. And so we do — the strangeness of life without David Bowie.