Words such as genius, icon, pioneer, inspiration and legend are thrown around all to easily these days. Every now and then however, there is someone whose influence surpasses all others, and such words don’t seem to do them justice. This week, the world lost a game-changer that earned the right to be called all of the above.
David Bowie wasn’t just a star – he was a constellation. His career spanned over 50 years, throughout which he showed himself to be a shape-shifter, and a master of reinvention.
The outpouring of tributes since his death was announced tells you all you need to know about his influence on the world of music. Kanye West, a man whose album-to-album reinvention bears certain similarities to the constant evolution of Bowie throughout his career, tweeted this shortly after the news broke:
“David Bowie was one of my most important inspirations, so fearless, so creative, he gave us magic for a lifetime.”
The Rolling Stones didn’t underestimate his significance, either. They tweeted:
“As well as being a wonderful and kind man, he was an extraordinary artist, and a true original.”
His influence has been firmly rooted in music since his groundbreaking strides in the 70s. Whether it’s Nirvana’s more subdued work, the afro-futuristic funk of Janelle Monae or the cerebral soul of Beck – The Starman is prominent in the melting pot.
It wasn’t just his musical ingenuity, either. Bowie was a physical chameleon as much as a musical one, serving as a beacon of acceptance with his androgynous style and sexual ambiguity. From his early-70s alter ego Ziggy Stardust – a flame-haired rock star who acted as a messenger for extraterrestrial beings – to his brazen berating of Ricky Gervais in ‘Extras’ in 2006, Bowie was consistently disarming with his style, sophistication and presence.
His 26th and final studio album, Blackstar, was released on January 8, two days before his death. At first it was cryptic, emotive and spontaneous, but two days later the album was shed in a much clearer light. Blackstar was David Bowie’s swansong – his parting gift to the world. He had been secretly battling liver cancer for 18 months.
His life-long collaborator, Tony Visconti, said that he knew Blackstar was Bowie’s goodbye.
“He made Blackstar for us, his parting gift. I knew for a year this was the way it would be. I wasn’t, however, prepared for it.
“He always did what he wanted to do. And he wanted to do it his way and he wanted to do it the best way. His death was no different from his life – a work of art.”
Thank you to David Bowie for a beautiful career and a legacy left. Now there most certainly is a Starman, waiting in the sky.