Thank you to … Iggy Pop, for showing everyone how to be more alive

Dear Mr Pop,

I had tickets for your gig at the Barbican jazz festival but warned my mate: “I don’t know how much jazz it’s going to be. Maybe it’s crooning. Anyway, it’s still Iggy.”

Of course I have seen you before, a thousand years ago, and I took it all for granted. Didn’t we all? When I lived in America, you were sleeping on the couch of the barman I worked with and, I hate to report, I am not sure you were the politest of house guests. We saw you in Baton Rouge with a lot of people screaming “faggot” and you taunted them by flaunting your enviable curves, as the Daily Mail might say.

Anyway, now it is 2019 and you are, amazingly, still here. Then my pregnant daughter calls: “It’s started Mum, I’m in labour.” “Oh God,” I say, “I’m going to see Iggy Pop.” “Go,” she says, “it’ll be a while yet.” I speak to my other daughter: “I’m going to the gig but I’m not going to have a drink or anything.” “Have a drink Mum,” she says. Where did these brilliant children come from, I wonder.

I wonder a lot about living and dying, too, as I lost a dear friend recently. Then I wonder about the Barbican, as it’s all so proper. Perhaps you, Mr Pop, will do some poetry and we will clap politely and act like grownups for once.

Then there you are. Your face like carved amber. The limp, the scoliosis, always smaller than your huge, striding attitude. The voice, deeper, darker than ever. Yes, it is a little jazzy. Then there is some Stooges and then you mention Bowie and I remember the story of how you wrote Nightclubbing in 20 minutes, and he wanted a proper drummer and you wanted a cheap drum machine. And we are back in a club in Kreuzberg, and you are everywhere on stage. I think of loss.

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As you leap and pose, who knows if it’s sex or tai chi or swimming that keeps you this way? All I know is I’ve never seen anyone who loves his audience the way you do and we love you back. You have transformed all that rage into something like prayer. Who knows how old you are now, as you sing of death and survival, as you head into the crowd: “Turn up the house lights,” you say. “I wanna see you.” You bathe in the light. “Do not go gentle into the good night,” you tell us. It’s like you don’t want to leave the stage and we don’t want you to.

My grandson was born a day or so later. He waited. He let me get to see you and for that I am grateful. Of course. But to you … well, thank you for kicking against the pricks. For knowing about death but showing us how to be the most alive a person can be. Thank you for showing up. Always. You sure hypnotised this chicken.



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