Saying goodbye with a Bowie song from space, and Rickman picking on Harry Potter
This week has been kind of a son of a bitch for the world of entertainment.
By now, you likely know that David Bowie died early this week of cancer. He apparently battled the illness for 18 months without the world – or even many of his friends – knowing that he was sick, making his death even more surprising.
That was a bad enough loss, but it was then followed by the death of Alan Rickman, who also died after a private battle with cancer.
Both were 69, and both left fans feeling like they were just gut punched.
It’s just been a weird week – make that a weird month. Along with Bowie and Rickman, since the year began we’ve lost a few other celebrities as well, including: René Angélil (best known as Celine Dion’s husband), singer Natalie Cole (who technically died on NYE 2015), country singer Craig Strickland, Michael Galeota (a former Disney star), and, of course, Motörhead’s Lemmy Kilmister – whose death was as big a blow to many as Bowie or Rickman.
Like Bowie and Rickman, Kilmister’s cause of death was cancer. Because cancer is an asshole that knows no bounds.
Our lives are made up of pieces, and when someone you venerate passes away, one of those pieces disappears. It’s obviously not as horrible or painful as when someone you know personally dies, but it is still slightly traumatic. Losing two blocks in a week (and more if you go back over the last few weeks), is a tough hit.
Bowie was a complicated man, with both good and bad in his past, but it’s hard to deny his influence. He was a visionary in many ways, both in his personal life and in the content he created. He was a trendsetter, a man ahead of his time. But rather than stand apart, he dragged people forward with him.
If you are a fan of Bowie and haven’t already, check out his album Blackstar. It was released just two days before his death (on his birthday, no less), and listening to it with the knowledge that Bowie created it while almost certainly knowing he was dying adds a surreal layer to it. There are lyrics that seem to address his own mortality. His last music video, released in November, is also filled with imagery that takes on a much deeper meaning when you know where he is coming from.
While his passing was tragic, Bowie went out like a boss. He prepared for it and faced it head on. He made a final statement and wrote his own epilogue. Few people have that chance.
As for Rickman, that one hits a little closer to home. While Bowie was a visionary, Rickman was a companion, appearing on screens throughout the lives of English speaking people (and more) all around the world. It would be difficult to find a person that hasn’t seen at least one or two of his films in an epic career that spanned nearly 40 years.
Bowie was a larger than life figure. He had an image, and he was very good at cultivating it. It made him iconic, but also a little unapproachable. Rickman played so many different roles though, from Snape to Hans Gruber to Hilly Kristal (in the underrated biopic CBGB) to a thinly veiled parody of Leonard Nimoy in Galaxy Quest, that there is probably at least one role of his that affected you.
In memoriam, we have a pair of clips to honor Rickman and Bowie. The first is to honor Rickman, and it seemed like the most fitting on a few levels.
Rickman played all manner of characters, from hero to villain, but at least in terms of box office, his biggest role was as the complicated and antagonistic wizard Snape in the Harry Potter films. Snape was a stern character that wasn’t really into fun, but that stood in contrast to Rickman himself, who by all accounts was a genuinely decent and caring person.
Following the news of Rickman’s death, Daniel Radcliffe posted a heartfelt goodbye in which he noted that Rickman treated him as a peer onset, and offset never failed to support his co-star by seeing his plays and films, or just being available to give advice. Despite being a consummate professional, Rickman also liked to have fun on set, which is where the clip below comes in.
During filming of Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban, during a scene in which the students of Hogwarts were supposed to be sleeping in the Great Hall for safety, Rickman and co-star Michael Gambon slipped a fart machine into Radcliffe’s sleeping bag. They then performed the scene while remotely setting it off several times.
If you want to remember Rickman, seeing him laugh and mess with people in the most good natured way imaginable is a great way to do it.
As for Bowie, there are plenty of clips from his movies, TV appearances, and musical career we could have selected. There are also several tributes like the episode of Flight of the Conchords where Brett is visited by the ghost of Bowie, or The Venture Bros., where Bowie is depicted as a magical being.
Instead though, this seemed the most appropriate.
The clip below was recorded on the International Space Station by Canadian astronaut Chris Hadfield, which gives a decent rendition of the famous Bowie song “Space Oddity”. The clip was pulled down for a while over legal concerns, but it is back now in honor of the departed.
Hadfield doesn’t have quite the range of Bowie, although he is himself an accomplished musician, but he does perform the entire song in space while watching the Earth pass by. That seems like a pretty good way to remember Bowie.