Five years ago on January 10th, the world mourned the loss of a beloved idol-David Bowie. David Robert Jones was an English musician born in 1947 and regarded as one of the most influential figures of the 20th century. Having composed 27 studio albums across a wide range of genres, it’s difficult to pinpoint exactly who David Bowie is-he’s simply David Bowie. Visually, musically and creatively, Bowie was always reinventing himself as a person and artist leaving an imprint on the world that can never be ignored nor forgotten. Here are six ways David Bowie shaped culture, music and society for generations to come.
- Fashion Icon
Bowie was a fashion icon and innovator as much as he was a musical vanguard. Throughout the decades, Bowie sported an abundant amount of unique trends powerful enough to get eyebrows raising and heads turning. Bowie’s edgy gender-fluid styles inspired drag, redefined masculinity and overall left a statement on the fashion world. His androgyny became evident on his album cover for The Man Who Sold The World (1970), where he was pictured reclined on a chaise longue in a satin dress.
- Sexuality and Gender
Through his fashion and image, it was clear Bowie was out to redefine beauty, gender and sexuality. In the 1972 issue of Melody Maker, Bowie openly stated “I’m gay and always have been, even when I was David Jones.” While he was not the first musician to open up to the public, this was an era where homosexuality was shamed. Through his lyrics, such as “You’ve got your mother in a whirl, she’s not sure if you’re a boy or a girl” from Rebel Rebel (1974), Bowie won the hearts of many including those who identify as LGBTQ+. He is relatable and gave everyone the courage to take pride in their true authentic selves.
Bowie was always transforming himself which gave him a much-deserved title of “The Chameleon of Rock ‘n’ Roll.” He truly wasn’t boring, and with him, you never knew what was going to come next. Bowie created fictional characters, such as Major Tom and Aladdin Sane, all owning different personalities each to go along with a story or theme he portrayed in his music. One of Bowie’s most influential characters went by the name of Ziggy Stardust- an omnisexual, alien rock star sent to save the Earth along with his band “The Spiders from Mars”. The Earlings adored Ziggy and the fame began to get to his head, causing the band to disband. Bowie went as far as to “killing” off the character in a 1973 concert in London; appropriately fitting for the concept album he was born into-The Rise and Fall of Ziggy Stardust and the Spiders from Mars (1972). Bowie was one of the first to bring theatrics and performance to the stage to effectively story-tell.
- Video Master
Although Bowie was not the first to have a music video, he was among the many first to be featured on MTV when music videos were slowly emerging. Like his concept albums and stage performances, Bowie’s music videos were like short films. Some were quite bizarre and even controversial by including religious symbolism and elements of sci-fi. The video for Ashes to Ashes is still one of the most iconic and oblique videos ever made. At its time, it was the most expensive video to produce costing £250,000.
- Sci-Fi and Space
In 2013, many of us may recall Canadian Astronaut Chris Hadfield covering Bowie’s first single to chart the UK- Space Oddity. The song was released in 1969 just before the Apollo 11 moon landing and gained a lot of recognition. If it wasn’t obvious already, Bowie was absurdly fascinated with space travel and science fiction-like literally. Rumors circulated he might actually be an alien. All and all, Bowie pushed us to explore our horizons and open our minds-whether it be literally going to space or examining the world in front of us. He was here for the outcasts and geeks and made everything seem cool.
- He Knows How to Say Goodbye
On his 69th birthday, just a few days prior to his death, Bowie released his final album Blackstar (2016). For many, it was a parting gift. Much like Bowie himself, the album is quite a mystery from beginning to end. The song and music video for the single Lazarus depicted many clues of Bowie’s struggles with cancer and his approaching mortality with lines such as “Look up here, I’m in heaven.” Those who purchased the vinyl were surprised to find when they exposed the cover in light, it disclosed an image of a galaxy, reminding us there is indeed a starman waiting in the sky, and that starman is David Bowie.
These were just a few ways David Bowie left his mark on the world. His extraordinary contributions will survive decades to come. Truly, he is one of a kind and irreplaceable. He will be missed, but his legacy lives on.