American Icon: David Bowie
The year started off with so much promise, but so far 2016 has been a painful one for those who love the arts. Natalie Cole, Lemmy Kilmister, Abe Vigoda, Glenn Frey and Alan Rickman are just a few of the notable names that passed away during the first month of the year.
But perhaps no celebrity death has reverberated more in January than that of David Bowie, the iconic rock star, actor and artist.
This is a man who can lay claim to such classic songs as:
- Let’s Dance
- Dancing in the Street
- Modern Love
- Rebel, Rebel
- The Man Who Sold the World
- Ziggy Stardust
- Young Americans
- Spacey Oddity
- I’m Afraid of Americans
- The Jean Genie
This is just a sampling of Bowie’s range. He could go from complete rocker in one instance to a poet in the next; he was a true chameleon whose message, voice, style and talents could never be pigeonholed into one specific category.
In the fashion world, he was never a follower. He forged his own path. “Perhaps to begin with, it was just a ploy to get people’s attention: dressing not exactly like a woman, but certainly not like any man, or at least not one who telegraphed such raw sex appeal. He wasn’t a drag queen; he was the prince of weird. David Bowie’s style, however, was no gimmick,” begins this excerpt from TIME’s David Bowie: His Life on Earth.
In his wake, he influenced a new generation of musicians; Madonna, Lady Gaga, Nine Inch Nails, Marilyn Manson and Lorde, to name a few.
In his life, he performed alongside such greats as Mick Jagger (“Dancing in the Street”) and John Lennon, with whom he penned the song “Fame.”
His voice could move you to tears, like here when he collaborated with Bing Crosby, taking a popular Christmas song and instantly turning it into a classic:
That voice conjures up similar emotions in this version of “Under Pressure” with Freddy Mercury, stripped bare of all background music:
While his talents were beyond compare and he took his art seriously, it seems that he did not do the same with his life. He was a friend of Howard Stern, he appeared on Conan multiple times and had a hilarious cameo on the HBO show Extras.
Towards the end of his life, it was said that Bowie largely became a recluse, rarely making public appearances and losing touch with those who were his friends. As Mick Jagger remarked following Bowie’s death, “I know David stopped touring around 2004 after having some health problems. After that, he kind of vanished, both from my life and the stage, so to speak, until he came back with an album that was a very interesting piece. It’s really sad when somebody leaves and you haven’t spoken to them for a long while. You wish you’d done this; you wish you’d done that. But that’s what happens. Strange things happen in life.”
Perhaps the strangest – and most wonderful thing – happened for Bowie in the last two years before his death. He experienced a creative reawakening, as told in this piece from the Guardian,capped by the release of his musical Lazarus which ran for two months at the New York City Workshop as well as the release of his 25th and final album, Blackstar, just two days before his death.
In the hours and days following his death, much has been made of Bowie’s final video, Lazarus; many calling it a poignant farewell, his last piece of artwork as he prepared to pass from this life to the next.
The irony is that the man known as Ziggy Stardust, The Thin White Duke, Starman and Bowie, left behind such an amazing catalogue of work that he can never truly die. Bowie will continue to live on. And he will inspire future generations and current ones, people similar to these who took to the streets of his hometown in Brixton the night of his death to pay homage to an artist who made a profound difference in his short time on Earth.
Words of an Icon: “As you get older, the questions come down to about two or three. How long? And what do I do with the time I’ve got left?” – David Bowie