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David Bowie’s ‘First American Fan’ Looks Back on Singer’s Touching Letter

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The woman who sent David Bowie his first American fan letter said she was inspired to pen the piece of mail after the singer’s demo left her in awe nearly 50 years ago.

Sandra Dodd was 14 when the British musician wrote back to her in 1967, saying he was “so pleased” to receive his first letter from a fan in the U.S. that he “had to sit down and type an immediate reply.” The letter resurfaced online Monday after the 69-year-old music icon died following an 18-month battle with cancer.

“I was just glad to tell him. It was hard for me as a kid to reach him, but I really wanted to,” Dodd, 62, of New Mexico, told TIME on Monday. “It was my urge to tell him that someone from far away heard his album and thought it was great.”

Dodd, who is now married with three children, said the “David Bowie” demo was passed down to her from her uncle after the country radio station he worked for rejected it. “I listened to that album a lot,” said Dodd, who works as an advocate for home schooling. “I was a big Beatles fan and I couldn’t help but compare it to that. I just thought this is the first person I heard who is really of that caliber.”

“Everything was really unique. It was surprising. It was interesting. It was artistic. It was just really high quality in all kinds of way,” she added. “It was well-written, and it was written by one person, the performer. That I respect more than anything else.”

Along with the letter, Bowie sent Dodd a package that included a newspaper and several photographs of him. “It was very sweet,” Dodd said. “The letter was cool. The letter is still cool. I just thought he was a sweet guy. He was a nice guy to have done that.”

Dodd sold the demo album for an undisclosed price about two years ago, she said, adding that she doesn’t regret the move. “It was old. It was scratchy-scratchy. It’s a burden to have it and to worry about taking care of it,” she said. “Anything that’s on an album is just a piece. It’s not the music. The music was in him. The music is in my head.”

In her letter to Bowie, Dodd also offered to start an American fan club for him. Bowie declined at the time, saying “it’s too early to even think about it.” “There is a fan club here in England, but if things go well in the states then we’ll have one there I suppose,” he wrote.

That’s one thing Dodd wishes went differently. “He should have let me start a fan club,” Dodd said. “I just really wanted him to know that that album could have a really good effect on someone.”

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