On the 11th of January 2016 the world’s media once again turned their cameras and microphones towards one of arguably the most legendary icons of British music. David Bowie, the man, the mystery, didn’t disappoint. Even in death he provided a spectacle that put his work right in the spotlight.
Rather than write this piece as a first-out-the-gate article that was clouded with emotions and clutter, I decided to write this piece in hindsight of his death, because hindsight is a great thing. You don’t need me to tell give you a breakdown of his life, because we’ve all been bombarded with it from every news outlet on this side of the Northern Hemisphere (and beyond). Instead, I thought I’d tell you a little about what David Bowie meant, and will continue to mean to me.
Whilst I was not of the generation to technically ‘grow up’ with the music and influence of David Bowie, my dad is a massive fan. This meant my childhood involved having a Bowie album on full blast whenever Mum wasn’t in the car, and singing our hearts out to ‘Life on Mars’. Our rendition would surely have made the local cats sound like Pavarotti, but it didn’t matter. Bowie’s music and what he stood for became an influence upon my life to such an extent that it is now unquantifiable. From my perspectives on life, to my artwork, in one way or another he has impacted it all in some way, shape or form. I became fascinated with this androgynous, chameleonic creature that had the ability to adapt to his surroundings. He taught me that it doesn’t matter what you look like, who you love, what music you’re into, or where you come from, everyone has the ability to be who they want to be, regardless of how clichéd it is.
His desire to embody characters on stage is, I believe, a metaphor for our whole lives. We all adopt different personas when we need them, I’m sure you all wouldn’t talk to your boss on a Monday the same way you talk to your friends in the pub on a Friday night. His ability to transform himself by using his body as a human canvas was, and still is awe inspiring.
If there’s one thing that I learnt from appreciating Bowie’s work, it’s that if you’re not happy with who you are, it is well within your ability to change that. It was only in his later years that he seemed to appear comfortable portraying ‘himself’ on stage, but having never previously seen the ‘real’ David Bowie, who’s to say that this wasn’t just another character? That’s a question that I’m sure people will be arguing until the cows come home, but to me it doesn’t matter. His hypersensitivity to the world around him was eye-opening. He knew exactly what people needed, even when they didn’t know it themselves.