When I received the CNN notification on my phone this morning that David Bowie passed away after secretly battling cancer, I didn’t believe it at first. Still half asleep and groggy, still in denial and partially thinking it was just a dream or perhaps that CNN somehow had gotten their facts mixed up, I put my phone down and went back to sleep.
But a few moments later, when I was finally awake and getting ready for work, I logged onto my Facebook. Scrolling through my newsfeed, I realized that it indeed wasn’t a dream nor misinformation. I read as fans expressed the similar grief and shock that I was feeling. Just two days ago marked his 69th birthday and the release of his latest album “Blackstar” along with a music video for his single “Lazarus”.
However, while his death was unexpected to the public, it seems as though the more closely you listen to the lyrics of the songs in “Blackstar” and watch the music videos, the clearer it becomes that Bowie may have quite possibly been foreshadowing his own death, offering this album as a parting gift for his fans knowing well that he would succumb to his cancer and showing the world how even until his last breath, he wanted to produce the one thing has was most passionate about– his music.
Even if you aren’t a die hard Bowie fan, chances are you know the name and probably have heard at least some of his songs; songs that have been covered in numerous television shows and films such as American Horror Story and Moulin Rouge! and have been used in the backdrop of pivotal movie scenes; from Heath Ledger and Shannyn Sossamon dancing to “Golden Years” in A Knight’s Tale to “Cat People [Putting out the Fire]” playing before the climactic conclusion in Quentin Tarantino’s Inglorious Basterds and most recently to “Starman” playing during a montage in The Martian, the list is endless.
He wasn’t just a musician who changed the face of rock and roll, he was a multi-instrumentalist, songwriter, record producer, visual artist, actor, and an innovator in fashion. He received praise for his performances in films such as The Man Who Fell to Earth and Labyrinth. He pushed the boundaries when it came to the world of threads and clothing, becoming a prominent symbol for androgynous style in the ’70s and ’80s especially after the birth of his iconic alter ego, Ziggy Stardust, during what was referred to as the “glam rock” era. Many designers still adopt the look and many personas he created from that period onto the runways today. If you look at pictures from live concerts and photo shoots, he wasn’t afraid to wear what he wanted. He was fearless, instantly making him a role model for entertainers and artists of all mediums. Bowie was a chameleon and that’s a rarity for many celebrities to pull off.
There’s no doubt that his legacy has transcended over a long period of time. Many stars today in various genres, from Kanye West to Kesha and even artists from his time that he’s worked closely with, like Iggy Pop and Brian Eno, have stated how Bowie has been a huge influence in their lives and in their own music.
Even though I wasn’t born during the start or height of his career, I have my own memories associated with the music he left behind further proving how he’s impacted several generations to follow. I still remember the first time I heard his distinct vocals singing with other music legend Freddie Mercury in “Under Pressure”on the radio one day one the way home from school. I remember how drawn I was by his portrayal of Jareth in Labyrinth when I watched the film during class in middle school, how my college roommate and I would burst out in song to verses from Moulin Rouge! in our Stillwater apartment, and as cheesy as it sounds– how a boy I once loved serenaded me to the words of “Heroes” while we listened to it on vinyl in New Jersey. As a girl who at times used to feel like an outcast in high school, I can’t tell you the countless times I blared “Life on Mars?” in my room. It’s funny how an individual who’s been around for several decades can make music that reminds you of memories from your life. I think that’s why it comes as such a surprise to me that he passed away. The idea of him ever dying has never crossed my mind– to me, his mortality seemed almost unbreakable.
This morning before my commute, I pulled my Bowie shirt out of my closet and hung it on the wall and just looked at it for a few moments, and thought about how lucky am I to have lived in a time when David Bowie existed.
Now Ziggy Stardust, you are floating in the most peculiar way, sitting in a tin can far above the world. The stars really do look very different today.