The Thin White Duke

Dear Pogue,

This is a letter from self isolation. I know the whole country is in lockdown but as you know I flew round half of the world last week so I’m even more confined. I can’t even volunteer to help for another two weeks. But I’m okay. Life feels good sat here in an armchair reading and writing. I feel like I have permission not to do all that stuff that I usually find myself doing. Happy days!

So, I want to write to you about something totally non-Covid 19. Call me a rebel, but this is a letter prompted by something that was brought to my attention back in January. At the time it was all very poignant and I mused over it for a day or so. The thing was the fourth anniversary of David Bowie’s death. The Thin White Duke had been gone from the world but in many ways he lives on and that’s the thing about music. It leaves the artist with us, in spirit, long after they have departed. The message. The beliefs. A confession. A plea. A soul laid bare. All these and more remain with us as poignant and alive as the day we first heard them.

I grew up at the same time as David Bowie grew musically (and I feel we have journeyed together a long time, long enough for me to use his first name). Although I was in short trousers when he had his Space Odyssey, there was something that drew us together, me trying to find a little rebel in my young spirit and he having found it and manifest it in Ziggy Stardust.

As I grew, he evolved, his appearance as the Thin White Duke being my favourite persona.

I re-invented my image so many times that I’m in denial that I was originally and overweight Korean woman.

David Bowie.

Why did I feel such an affinity? I guess it is what he said. The lyrics. The words he spun together. Think, have you ever found yourself wondering what has happened in someone’s life that they are able to write those words? How do they see the world? How has their mind got so free that the normal constraints of language can be tossed aside to allow the creation of images that strike home with a force that shatters conformity?

Other artists have engaged my imagination with their words and imagery, Paul Simon being an example with his Gracelands album.

She’s got diamonds on the soles of her shoes, That’s one way to cure these walking blues.

Paul Simons

Where did that come from?

But David was the most consistent, to my mind, time and again setting off a sympathetic vibration deep inside. His words created an overwhelming resonance.

So tell me, what goes on in a person’s mind that they can create these things? Like, and this is a visual example, what happened in Picasso to enable him to paint what he did? Or Jackson Pollock. What were they seeing, what were their inner dialogues when they laid down their masterpieces? How can so much raw energy be held down on canvas?

You know I believe we’re all creative at the core? Made in the likeness of God, the creator. Made from the essence of Source, so endowed with creativity. That we can all create.

Create what?

I can’t say, but there is, within each, at least a spark. I guess, if we create, we create according to our experience. For me, currently it is words, a little culinary adventure, but mostly words. Now I’m finding that I have constraints on my words. Upbringing, education. We know people who we have dubbed grammar Nazis. Things have to follow rules or they’re not right. Unacceptable. That used to bother me but not any more. Why? Because I now understand that if you set the parameters you limit your experience and stunt your creativity. Structure and rules make you happy? Fill your boots, but they’re not for me.

Think what we would have missed if we had all been observant of the rules. No Impressionism. No DH Lawrence, who walked all over the limitations of socially acceptable behaviour. No Coltrane. No van Gogh. The list of those who ruptured the confines of correctness goes on and on, those who have filled our world with colour, both verbal and visual.

I’m not a prophet or a Stone Age man, just a mortal with potential of a superman. I’m living on.

David Bowie

I asked what goes on in their heads? Tell me, is it that they don’t know the rules apply to them? They feel free to engage the world in any and every way that feels appropriate. If we can push through, follow impressions, desires, give ourselves permission to explore, we will put the paint on canvas in ways we’ve only dreamt of. We’ll bring together words, metaphors, imagery that we may have understood to be taboo. We’ll take ingredients that have no place on the same plate and deliver delicious.

What do you think Pogue? Want to create? Break a few rules? Thumb your nose at your critics? Smiles sweetly on the outside and at the same time be thinking “screw you” on the inside?

I remember a child that kept trying to stand up in her seatbelt and when finally made to sit down told everyone that she was sitting down on the outside, but she was standing up on the inside. Can you find that person again and go create?

I wonder if the boundary pushers, the rule breakers, were ever concerned with what their potential audience would think? Indeed, if there would be an audience? If David is an example I must say not, as in his life I see a person who found his creativity, pursued it even when that involved recreating himself over and over and gifting us with the product of each creation. A person true to himself and free from expectation.

I don’t know where I’m going from here but I promise it won’t be boring.

David Bowie

So, lets you and me be those who are not held back by expectations or the boundries presented to us. I will join you and we will be found standing, on the inside. Viva la revolution.

Yours, mixing my metaphors ,


4 thoughts on “The Thin White Duke

  1. Love this blog post!
    I need to be more like this :
    ”be those who are not held back by expectations or the boundries presented to us. I will join you and we will be found standing, on the inside. ”


  2. Pingback: Guest Post from Letters to Pogue – Now Begins Life

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