by Julian Spivey
David Bowie, Rock & Roll Hall of Famer and music legend, died on Sunday, Jan. 10, just two days after his 69th birthday, after a secretive 18-month battle with cancer, according to his publicist and family.
It’s a miracle any news this big could be kept quiet for 18 months, especially when it’s a star of Bowie’s stature, but Bowie always seemed to be one of music’s more private superstars. In fact, you could argue Bowie’s entire life was a secret – as the singer-songwriter mostly wrote like a fictional author and not necessarily telling tales of his own life.
Maybe that’s unfair and not necessarily true and shows my ignorance of Bowie’s complete body of work, but you see the artist, who I greatly respect, wouldn’t really make the list of my 25 favorite artists. This is not to say I’m not a fan – I am. I really enjoy much of Bowie’s work – just not enough to consider myself a super fan like I am with a Bruce Springsteen, Merle Haggard or Johnny Cash.
But, Bowie is one of the most important figures in the history of rock and popular music – not necessarily for what he put to paper with his pen (though much of it brilliant), but for how he portrayed his music. Bowie basically fathered the entire subgenre of rock music known as glam rock – which artists like Alice Cooper and KISS would take and run with.
Bowie writing songs such as “Space Oddity,” “Ziggy Stardust,” “Starman” and others gave him an otherworldly quality that he would play up on stage dressed as the fictional Ziggy Stardust himself in “out there” fashion and makeup. Bowie also played around with the idea of sexuality throughout this period, which brought the term “androgyny” to the rock & rock scene. His alter-ego Ziggy was an androgynous alien. This point in his career made Bowie a life-long gay icon, and he became really the first big rock star to identify as bisexual – even though he’d later admit it was all a part of his backstory, though some would argue it was indeed true.
Fashion designer Raf Simons once said of Bowie: “He’s a chameleon, able to reinvent himself. But he’s also the materialization of something else. More than a man – an idea.”
What Bowie was most was weird – and that’s meant as a compliment of the highest honor. Bowie’s weirdness and uniqueness is really what made him stick out (not to take away from his brilliantly scripted short stories to music). It also made waves of people flock to him because he allowed them to realize they could be weird and everything would be OK. It was suddenly OK to be flamboyant or “out there” or just not of the norm.
Too often in this world (particularly in America) – even surprisingly in the beginnings of 2016 – we’re told that we have to look or act a certain way. And, when we don’t we’re ostracized or made to feel wrong or different because we aren’t what society expects us to be. It’s all really bullshit and Bowie was maybe the first popular star to show in his own special way that it was indeed bullshit.
I never want to be normal. Nobody really should. Normal is boring. Normal is oftentimes ignorant. I want to be unique, strange, different, original. Because of this I respected the hell out of David Bowie. Because of this I’ll miss David Bowie. But, his impact will be lasting. He made it cool to be weird.