David Bowie: Legend, Icon, Inspiration

Article by Phoebe Burt January 16, 2016

Marc Wathieu, Original via Flickr/ Creative Commons Attribution-Sharealike licence.

On 10 January 2016 the world lost an icon. David Bowie, aged 69, died after an eighteen-month battle with cancer. As a singer, songwriter, producer, artist and actor Bowie inspired millions during his fifty-year career.

Born as David Robert Jones in January 1947, Bowie grew up in Brixton, South London. He made his musical debut aged sixteen performing in Davy Jones and the Lower Third, but his big break came in 1969 when he signed a deal with Mercury Records. Space Oddity, his first single, reached number five in the UK Singles Charts.

Bowie’s presence within the music industry continued to grow, and his next two albums, The Man Who Sold the World and Hunky Dory, rocketed Bowie’s unique sound and quirky personality into stardom. He never failed to surprise, and the arrival of Ziggy Stardust, Bowie’s androgynous alter ego, introduced a side to Bowie never seen before. Homosexuality and bisexuality were not widely accepted and gender issues remained a taboo topic, but Ziggy Stardust burst onto the scene with no shame, inspiring younger generations to embrace themselves and each other.

‘I have a lot of extraordinary memories with him. I think it’s very sad, his passing, for so many reasons. To me, not only was he a genius, he was a genius who had the time to be kind. That was my experience of him. So my thoughts are with his family.’ -Bowie’s Labyrinth co-star Jennifer Connelly speaking to Entertainment Tonight after hearing of his passing.

Music was not Bowie’s only talent. Acting was one of his passions and he had a successful acting career alongside his music. His first leading role was in The Man Who Fell to Earth, going on to win the Saturn award for Best Actor.  Arguably, one of his defining roles was as Jareth the Goblin King in the 1986 film LabyrinthThis film gathered a huge cult following and Bowie’s character became iconic amongst children.

After a ten-year break, Bowie returned to the music scene in 2013 with his album The Next Day. His newest and last album Blackstar was released just two days before his death. The first single Lazarus has taken on new meaning amongst fans since Bowie’s death – the first line ‘Look up here, I’m in heaven’ has been interpreted as Bowie’s goodbye gift to the public. His death has received worldwide mourning with hundreds of people expressing their grief through social media. Brixton paid tribute with a beautiful celebration of Bowie’s life and work, with music, dancing and singing lasting well into the night.

Bowie’s death is a tragic loss for music, film and the world. Thank you for everything, Starman; your fearless attitude, extravagant outfits and unique sound have inspired so many. You will be missed but never forgotten.

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