The music industry lost one of its most influential and recognizable figures with the passing of David Bowie on Jan. 10 after an 18 month battle with liver cancer. Two days prior, Bowie celebrated his 69th birthday and the release of his final album, “Blackstar.” He died in his apartment in New York City where he remained out of the spotlight, as he never made the news of his condition public.
Bowie set himself apart from other musicians early on, as he was constantly changing his persona, his image and his sound, that no one knew what to expect from him musically. His fashion was just as important as his music. Frequently reinventing himself and creating new styles is what made him unique. Collaborating with Japanese designer Kansai Yamamoto helped bring these styles to life. From the jumpsuits he wore on stage, to his red mullet haircut, it was establishing these trends that led to some of his most widely known personas.
When people think of the many faces of David Bowie they typically think of the rock star from another planet he called, “Ziggy Stardust.” Some of his other characters included “Aladdin Sane,” and “The Thin White Duke.” His past acting experience is what gave these characters a life of their own and allowed for true expression on stage. His image and performance was a visually astounding display that had a large impact on his ever-changing musical identity.
Some of Bowie’s most famous songs include, “Space Oddity,” (1969) “The Man Who Sold the World,” (1970) “Ziggy Stardust,” (1972) “Moonage Daydream,” (1972) “Rebel, Rebel,” (1974) and “Heroes,” (1977). Out of his long list of hits, these are just a few pieces that still have a deep resonation with many Bowie fans.
“I was exposed to his music and the unique and strange songs really stood out to me,” said Kyley Jacobs, a Sophomore Psychology major, “[they] made me have a deep appreciation for him as an artist.”
Bowie didn’t just promote music and fashion, he promoted individuality and self-expression. A lot of his music spoke on behalf of his own spirituality, political and religious beliefs. Much of his work expressed messages fighting racism and fascism, some of which were portrayed through his 1983 songs “China Girl,” and “Just Dance,” as well as the 1989 album “Tin Machine.”
As one of the pioneers of Pop and Glam Rock, Bowie will inevitably go down as one of the all-time greats. He spent time exploring all types of music. From a classic rock sound, to a pop star image, to exploring the electronic scene and everywhere in between, he left an impact in all forms of music even when it seemed like one form would rule over another. With it all set and done, Bowie’s career ended with 27 studio albums, 121 singles, five UK number one singles, and 14 top 20 albums. Doing what he did took extreme risk and that risk is what helped carry his sound onto a new generation of music.
“He fearlessly experimented with so many different kinds of music,” said Katelyn Foley, a Junior Communications Major, “because of that he connected to so many people.”
New generations of musicians are always experimenting with different sounds and artists without caring about the risks. Bowie carved the way for future artists to be unique and successful by being themselves and creating their own brand of imagery and music.
In his 50 plus years in music, Bowie changed what it meant to be a musician. Considering he has been a part of almost every genre of music, it is virtually impossible to find a present day artist who wasn’t influenced by his music or his style. It’s hard to find other pop culture icons of his stature in large part because they no longer exist. He was a truly legendary artist who wanted to do the best for himself, which in turn was the best thing for his fans. There is always a way to escape through music, a way to be yourself or be something bigger. His songs will always allow us to be unique and remember that, “Though nothing will drive them away, we can be heroes, just for one day.”