The Immortal David Bowie
IN THIS IMAGE: David Bowie as Aladdin Sane/IMAGE CREDIT: Paul Meijering
I asked whether the mainstream of music is becoming too dull and linear. I think there is a sense of homogenisation and there are few artists where you look and them and think there is a true original. I guess artists have expectations and there is that pressure to release music; to conform a certain way and not really concern themselves with looks and sonic image. How many artists do you see now who develop and change that much between albums? I look out at music now and do not see people who stagger you with their design and look; they are not really shifting between albums and the crowded nature of music means it is harder to foster rebels. I will quote from a similar article that talks about the theme I want to address: how immortal David Bowie is and how we can learn from him. I have discussed his best albums and I feel, if you want a true sense of who he is, you need to attack all of his records. Even his underrated efforts – such as Earthling (1997) and Pin Ups (1973) – warrant serious attention. You can argue Bowie made a few forgettable albums, like every great artist, but even those have an intrigue of their own. One of the reasons David Bowie will continue to reign and inspire is his sense of style and image.
IN THIS PHOTO: Bowie as the Thin White Duke in 1976/PHOTO CREDIT: Andrew Kent
That may sound shallow and insignificant but think how much of his art and sound was directed by his look. Whether he was adopting a persona or simply changing his hair; he was reluctant to sit still and always keen to explore new territory. In many ways, Bowie acts as a guide and mentor to those who want to stand out; who want to show their true self or fantasise if they want. He showed you could be anyone you want to be and do not have to follow the pack. I picture Bowie and myriad images come to mind. Whether he was more accessible and down to earth or made up as Aladdin Sane or Ziggy Stardust; here was some someone who want to be super-human and, in so many ways, he was! The musicians who stand out and will always be remembered are those that challenge convention but, in many ways, connect with their audience. I think we are in a time when identity and changing things up is not that important. Maybe musicians connect with their fans musically but does it run deeper than that?! I think today we feel more disconnect, alone and unsure than we ever have. It is a scary time and I think, for musicians and fans, Bowie acts as a source of inspiration.
The way he spoke about identity and how he overcame barriers was amazing. He arrived in music rather modestly; testing the water and, soon enough, would bloom into this otherworldly and startling human. Bowie, as this Independent article explores, urged people out in the world to overcome limitations and explore life in a different way:
“In breaking his own “suburban curse”, as he put it, Bowie ushered multiple generations of people to do the same. Often, he wrote about loneliness and isolation, a feeling of falling to Earth and not really knowing what’s going on, and either leaving it there and revelling in nihilism or exploring its treatment: connection.
Has any other artist transmitted more creative freedom to their fans? Or had something more meaningful or profound to say about identity? Bowie took himself and his life seriously as a subject, but, crucially, avoided groan-inducing pretension by spiking his art and commentary with humour and silliness (“The Laughing Gnome”, anyone?). He was also deeply self-aware. He said he started wearing costumes because he wasn’t sure if he even had a personality. “I always had a repulsive need to be something more than human”.
We can never see Bowie in the flesh again and experience that first-hand dose of magic. That is okay. Because of the Internet, Bowie’s gigs and music will be preserved forever. Listen to the man im interviews and he was more than an average, keep-in-on-trend artist: Bowie was exploring the nature of technology, philosophy and religion.
He, to me, seemed like more of a spiritual figure than a mere musician. I think his constantly shifting image and sense of exploration can compel generations to come. Whether you are hiding who you are or afraid to express; scared of being labelled or judged...Bowie’s legacy and boldness will lead the way. We do have some artists in the mainstream who imbue some of his D.N.A. (such as Lady Gaga) but there is nobody like him. Three years after his death, we are still learning from him and picking up new gems. David Bowie is so adaptable and chameleon-like that everyone gets something different from him. Some might be struck by his characters and how he wanted to be more than human – they will take from that strength and bravery and express who they want to be. To others, Bowie’s sonic shifts and need to explore new ground will compel them. To me, his humanity and sense of accessibility is his greatest weapon. We had this genius among us that never pushed anyone away. Many artists with Bowie’s brilliance and popularity might seem aloof and not one to really touch fans. Think of other icons like Madonna and Michael Jackson and you wonder whether you could talk to them down the pub or they would be the sort of artist who spoke for you – someone who was grounded and, therefore, a tangible role model.
IN THIS PHOTO: David Bowie captured in 1995 during a Berlin exhibition/PHOTO CREDIT: Gavin Evans
South London’s David Jones never lost a sense of who he was and where he came from. Strangely, his mortality and human side is what makes him immortal. We got to know the man behind the music and Bowie never shut away his audience. Thinking about Bowie and I feel his true brilliance will not be realised for years to come. Music needs someone like him to open the market and throw a grenade in there. There is nobody out there who moves like him; who has that sense of identity and inspires the masses. I do not think we will ever see an icon like Bowie again but I do feel artists will come through who are deeply moved by the great man. Maybe that will involve changing their look between albums and showing the same flair for expression and keeping things fresh. Maybe they will take note of Bowie’s sonic moves and how certain albums are influenced by distinct genres and periods of time. Perhaps they will take guidance from his interviews and how the man away from the studio was this rooted and friendly guy who charmed everyone. There is a gap now but, the more we discover Bowie and remember him, I feel that will be filled. Every week seems to see something new from David Bowie. We are lucky enough there is plenty in the vaults that show more sides to him.
PHOTO CREDIT: Getty Images
Music is in good shape but I do feel like it lacks a certain spark, sense of colour and magic. Perhaps the electronic hand has meant we are less concerned about standout musicians and more interested in getting tracks quick and constantly moving along. So many people out there have struggles and are hiding something in them; many are scared of the future and anxious about the world. I think Bowie’s majestic music and ever-changing moods are more important now than ever. Being free and open; never compromising and trying to change the world – this is what David Bowie was about and what we all need to remember. I mentioned how he meant different things to different people and I always loved how the fact there was this split personality. You had the musician who was this genius who changed his skin and sound but always remained true to his roots. Outside of music, David Bowe was this truly humble and warm soul who starred in films, T.V. shows and had so many different talents at his disposal. Children growing up would mimic his looks and take great strength from this wonderful human who embodied characters and gave them a sense of voice. I think, in many ways, Bowie will keep on impacting music for decades. I am seeing artists take little bits from him and new acts come through that definitely channel Bowie.
My greatest prediction seems to contradict what I was saying recently. I do not think we will see an icon like Bowie icon and music has changed so much that makes it difficult to breed this type of musician. I do feel we will see more and more artist taking from Bowie and compelling their fans. Whether they rediscover albums like Low and Station to Station and create their own version of that; maybe they will look at his incredible concepts and gigs and be moved by them. Perhaps Bowie’s changing looks and his unique expressions will rub off and either led to personal revelation or a need to be bolder and more interesting. It is hard to tell but Bowie is one of very few artists who is immortal and will constantly impact the world. His death shocked us all and made music poorer but we have these wonderful albums and memories that will never go away. Even if it is something as simple as playing one of his songs or watching an interview with him...he makes you feel better, more open to the world and stronger. I want to end by quoting from an interview Bowie did with The New York Times in 2002. He spoke about how, at age fifty-five, he approaches songwriting:
''When it's taken that nakedly, these are my subjects. And it's like, well, how many times can you do this? And I tell myself, actually, over and over again. The problem would be if I was too self-confident and actually came up with resolutions for these questions. But I think they're such huge unanswerable questions that it's just me posing them, again and again”.
There may be these huge questions that we all struggle to answer and make sense of but, with David Bowie’s beautiful and ever-inspiring aura out in the world, we all feel we are...
PHOTO CREDIT: Richard Young/REX/Shutterstock
CLOSER to knowing the answers.