David Bowie is one of those artists whom I rediscover every few months. The first time I heard Bowie, it was the song “1984” from the album “Diamond Dogs.” I immediately searched for more and found an enormous collection of music that sounded nothing like the song I fell in love with—but each new one became my new favorite Bowie record. For years to come, I would run into a new Bowie masterpiece in a film or TV show and play it on repeat for the next two weeks. I then recognized him in award shows, magazines, movies, TV, even as an animated character. I, like many others, became obsessed with his many personas and styles. It is clear to me that he was more than a musician—he was an icon.
On Jan. 10 , David Bowie passed away surrounded by his family in his New York home. His son, Duncan Jones, was the first to spread the news via Twitter. The star had been secretly fighting cancer for 18 months.
Within hours of the news breaking, fellow artists and fans from all over the world were paying in their own special ways. His longtime friend and producer Tony Visconti tweeted, “He was an extraordinary man, full of love and life. He will always be with us. For now, it is appropriate to cry.” Kanye West said, “David Bowie was one of my most important inspirations, so fearless, so creative, he gave us magic for a lifetime.” Paul McCartney lamented, “David was a great star and I treasure the moments we had together.”
Hundreds of other artists from Iggy Pop to Kendrick Lamar shared similar sentiments. St. Vincent captured many people’s’ shock and disbelief with a simple “NO.” Some artists like Reggie Watts shared images of their faces painted with the iconic lightning bolt he wore on the cover of “Aladdin Sane.” Top music sites including Pitchfork, Rolling Stone and SPIN all featured stories on Bowie’s life and music.
Bowie was known as one of the greatest innovators and self-reinventors in contemporary music. His initial releases encompassed psychedelic rock and classic pop before his breakthrough as the Ziggy Stardust character. Albums like “Diamond Dogs” and “Young Americans” contained elements of funk, soul and disco. In the ’80s, Bowie embraced dance music with the hit “Let’s Dance” album. In the ’90s, Hip Hop beats could be heard on “Black Tie White Noise,” and his style has only continued to evolve from there. His music changed and so did his appearance. Bowie’s endless personas all contribute to the enigmatic star that we came to know and love.
Bowie’s death came just two days after the release of his final album “Blackstar.” Although we did not know at the time of release, Tony Visconti confirmed that it was “his parting gift.” On “Blackstar,” we hear Bowie returning to an experimental sound with strong jazz influences, (fittingly) dark lyrics, paired with contributions from James Murphy (LCD Soundsystem), saxophonist Donny McCaslin and guitarist Ben Monder, among others. “Blackstar” is a thrilling adventure of an album and was met with universal acclaim.
Musician and longtime friend Brian Eno shared a piece of Bowie’s final letter to him. Bowie ended with, “Thank you for our good times, brian. they will never rot,” and signed with an alias (as he usually did), “Dawn”. Even in death, Bowie was committed to his art. The world of music will never be as pretty, rebellious, alien, or fun without David Bowie.