Rest In Peace, David Bowie: 1947-2016
Yesterday, January 10th, David Bowie passed away after a secret 18-month battle with cancer. He had turned 69 just two days before, a date celebrated with the release of his 25th album, Blackstar. He was one of the most iconic musicians of his era, if not the most.
Bowie’s career spanned almost half a century, greatly influencing music, art, fashion, film, and culture at large. His albums touched on everything from glam rock to pop to punk, and he famously created and altered genres like “plastic soul.” His personas were as varied as his music: the kabuki alien Ziggy Stardust, the hollow Thin White Duke, and the original David Jones, his birth name, whom his wife Iman liked to say she truly married. Bowie’s varying personas played freely with gender and sexuality, breaking down previously impenetrable barriers in mainstream culture.
His biggest hits included the poppy “Let’s Dance,” a collaboration with Chic’s Nile Rodgers, and “Fame,” which he performed on Soul Train, as one of the only white artists who was ever featured. Other classics include “Heroes,” “Golden Years,” “Panic In Detroit,” “Rebel, Rebel,” “Five Years,” and “Oh! You Pretty Things.” Dozens of other songs could also be listed here.
In addition, Bowie was an accomplished actor. He starred as an alien in 1976’s The Man Who Fell To Earth, played Pontius Pilate in Martin Scorsese’s Last Temptation of Christ, and famously starred as Jareth the Goblin King in Jim Henson’s cult classic, Labyrinth. His turn in The Elephant Man on Broadway was highly critically acclaimed, and just this past December, Bowie opened an off-Broadway rock musical, Lazarus, based on his character in The Man Who Fell To Earth.
I’ve never been one to shout about my Bowie fandom (not that there’s anything wrong with that–the man was a genius). But that’s just because saying you love David Bowie is like saying you love air. I grew up in a house without religion, but there was Bowie. To me, he’s omniscient.
It’s too soon to fully quantify the effect that David Bowie had on art: he was immeasurably influential, a truly fearless, uncompromising, and creative artist. He is survived by his wife Iman, his son, film director Duncan Jones, and his teenage daughter Alexandria. He will be greatly missed.
Lyrics from his most recent single, also titled Lazarus, seem especially poignant now. Look up here/I’m in heaven/I’ve got scars that can’t be seen/I’ve got drama, can’t be stolen/Everybody knows me now.
Image courtesy of the Morrison Hotel Gallery