Last night the incomparable Ian McMillan compered the TS Eliot Prize nominees reading their poems at the Royal Festival Hall. Since Celia introduced me to this wonderful event, it has been a fixture in my Januarys. Tonight the winner will be announced at the V&A. One of the poems was about the Day the Music Died, when the Big Bopper, Buddy Holly and Ritchie Valens were all killed in a 'plane crash.
It wasn't something that affected my life, as I wasn't that long out of the womb. Later I enjoyed Buddy Holly, who I always associate with Jimmy Ruffin as I was introduced to their music at the same time when my sister borrowed albums by both of them from a friend; and I have seen the musical twice, but he was always someone who spoke to a generation before mine.
Popular music provides the soundtracks to our lives, takes us back in an crotchet to places and times we had all but forgotten. The lyrics articulate our angst, our anger, our love, our hope. Never underestimate the power of popular music to glue your memories together, to create shared bonds with people.
Today the music died again. I heard about it via Instagram, and had an elongated 'this doesn't make sense' moment because only the other week I read an article about his new album, released just this weekend. It talked about him being reclusive, spending time with his young daughter in the privacy of their home. So the implication that David Bowie was dead didn't add up.
But it is true. I turned away from the news when they started asking teenagers who were gurning at the camera what Bowie meant to them. I had more in common with the man who said you never feel old when you listen to Bowie because it takes you back decades and sounds as good as it did when you first heard it.
Space Oddity wasn't my favourite, but my little cousin Russell, barely out of nappies when it was released, adored it, and it was seldom off the turntable in my Aunt's pub. It was Ziggy Stardust that grabbed me, and then I dived backwards to Hunky Dory and sideways to Lou Reed and the Velvet Underground. Bowie was an important rock of my teenage musical education, and like earlier influences – The Beatles, Stones and Kinks – I have continued to listen to this music all my life.
I saw him live in his Ziggy phase, and it changed my expectations of rock concerts for ever. Someone nicked my Ziggy album when I flat shared, so I only have the CD now. Hunk Dory, Aladdin Sane, Heroes; they are all on vinyl.
A friend and I once got rid of a couple of bores who were trying to pick us up by reciting Bowie lyrics. We had similar success with Shakespeare too.
So thanks David and William, though probably not what either of you had in mind for your work. I'll be listening to you and reading you for a long time yet. And if I do end up with dementia and in a care home, I hope it's Bowie they are playing to jog my memory and not the Osmonds.