RIP David Bowie (1947-2016) – A Cultural Icon
The sad news was confirmed by Bowie’s son Duncan in a heartbreaking tweet, leading to tributes from across the world pouring in to commemorate the life of a true superstar.
From the Thin White Duke to Ziggy Stardust, Bowie was undeniably a man of many names and many faces. A pioneer of glam rock, an experimental genius and a transformative fashion icon to boot, Bowie’s impact upon the cultural landscape has left an artistic legacy that will never be forgotten.
To celebrate his life and his immeasurable contribution to the music world, we’re taking a look back at Bowie’s astounding career and how he’s influenced the future of rock music. We’ve also created a playlist of our all time favourite Bowie songs for your enjoyment, so hit play and read all about the UK’s most recognisable megastar.
“I’m an instant star. Just add water and stir.” via GIPHY
Born David Robert Jones in 1947 in London, Bowie showed early signs of musical talent, having learned to play several instruments proficiently before he’d even left primary school. Bowie’s interest in music was kick-started by his father’s Fats Domino, Little Richard and Elvis Presley records, with the man himself saying “I had heard God” upon listening to rock ‘n roll for the first time.
By the time Bowie left secondary school, he’d played in several bands and attracted the attention of Leslie Conn, a personal management agent who promoted his act Davie Jones and the King Bees for a short while. After becoming frustrated with the artistic integrity of his bandmates, Bowie left the band and had a succession of short lived stints in numerous bands (The Manish Boys, The Riot Squad and The Lower Third) before becoming a solo artist in 1967 and changed his stage name from Davy Jones to David Bowie.
Following his enrolment in the London Dance Centre in 1967, Bowie’s interest in cultivating a unique image began to blossom as he became immersed in the world of avant-garde performance and a more bohemian lifestyle than he had previously experienced. With this newly cultivated image, Bowie began to achieve a small level of mainstream success, culminating in his top 5 hit with Space Oddity, strategically released in the days prior to the Apollo 11 launch. From here on in, the only way was up!
“Fame can take interesting men and thrust mediocrity upon them.”via GIPHY
Bowie released three albums in four years before unleashing Ziggy Stardust and the Spiders from Mars onto the world and cementing his place as an internationally beloved star. In the early ’70s, the world had never seen anything as strange and striking as Ziggy Stardust, causing Bowie to become both a figurehead of controversy and of the future of music.
Bowie’s alien, bisexual rockstar alter-ego “challenged the core belief of the rock music of its day” and “created perhaps the biggest cult in popular culture”, with Bowie himself stating “…I was the ultimate rock star. I couldn’t have been more rock star”.
However, the Ziggy Stardust period didn’t last forever and Bowie officially ‘retired’ him in 1973. This was followed by a shift in sound and persona, with Bowie now adopting the Thin White Duke character and channelling a more funky, soul tinged feel that can be seen in classic albums such as Station to Station and Young Americans.
Flirtations with ‘krautrock’, pop-rock and musical minimalism encapsulated Bowie’s next evolution, with legendary tracks like Heroes emerging from this phase. The ’80s ushered in a more poppy New Wave sound that saw Bowie’s popularity hit an all time high. Collaborations with musical superstars such as Queen, Iggy Pop and Mick Jagger cemented his status as the biggest male artist of the decade.
After a brief hiatus to pursue a musical venture with his band Tin Machine, the 90’s saw Bowie return to a more experimental sound. With an electronic slant, the decade saw him produce some of the most innovative and exciting music of his career. His 1996 induction into the ‘Rock and Roll Hall of Fame’ established his place in the pantheon of musical greats and recognised his contribution to the landscape of the music industry.
Towards the dawn of the millennium, Bowie moved away from the heavy electronica of the ’90s and ushered in an instrument heavy, neoclassical rock sound. Whilst relatively active in the early 00’s, this period in Bowie’s life was marred by numerous spells of ill health, leading to him to performing live in 2006 and limit his output for the remainder of the decade.
It came as some surprise when it was announced on January 8th 2013 (Bowie’s 66th birthday) that he was to release Next Day, his first album in a decade. Upon the album’s release, it shot straight to the top of the charts, earning Bowie his first #1 album since Black Tie White Noise was released 20 years previously. In 2014, Bowie became the oldest ever winner of a Brit Award when he won ‘Best British Male’, an unexpected accolade for a music industry veteran.
This year, Bowie surprised us all again by releasing his 25th and final studio album Blackstar on his 69th birthday, two days before his death. Billed as his ‘swan song’ to fans, the album has been critically acclaimed for it’s unrelenting artistry and emotively cryptic nature. Speculation abounds that the album is jampacked with references to his impending death, though only the man himself knows the truth behind the album’s evocatively stirring lyrics.
“As you get older, the questions come down to about two or three. How long? And what do I do with the time I’ve got left?” via GIPHY
Not only was Bowie a legitimate musical superstar, but he dabbled rather successfully in the world of acting. From a series of small, character roles to a cameo role in Zoolander and the starring role in the cult ’80s film Labyrinth, Bowie’s acting career was just as eclectic as his recording career. Known and loved as Jareth, the Goblin King by generations of film fans, Bowie’s legacy is sure to live on and entertain future generations.
ASHES TO ASHES
” I don’t know where I’m going from here, but I promise it won’t be boring.”via GIPHY
With a recording career that spanned over 4 decades and an undeniable musical legacy, Bowie transcended the fickle world of celebrity to become a bona fide cultural icon. Bowie’s style, both musically and sartorially, has inspired musicians from Marilyn Manson to Lady Gaga and Motley Crue to Nine Inch Nails and has been credited with not only ushering glam rock into the public conscience, but inspiring the punk movement.
As his biographer David Buckley stated, “His influence has been unique in popular culture—he has permeated and altered more lives than any comparable figure.”
Here’s what some of our favourite musicians have to say about the Thin White Duke:
- Marilyn Manson: “Today there seems to be a lack of icons and rock stars in general. When I grew up, there was David Bowie and Iggy Pop – people who had something to say and had quite an impact on music and society.”
- Nikki Sixx (Motley Crue): “…one of my all time musical heroes…”
- Frank Black (Pixies): “So many Bowie tracks have become an international and permanent part of the pop culture.”
As a true musical legend, David Bowie may be gone, but he certainly won’t be forgotten. As one of the most recognisable names in the music industry, Bowie has become a source of inspiration to musicians, fashion designers and artists all over the world.
So stand in solidarity with his legions of fans and show your respects with one of our official t shirts to celebrate the life of the Thin White Duke.