Color me ignorant when it comes to David Bowie.
I know what everyone else knows. “Space Oddity.” “Changes.” “Under Pressure.”
So rather than regurgitate his Wikipedia page to you and pretend that I’ve spent my life becoming the consummate David Bowie expert, I figured I’d just keep it real.
What I did know about the man, however, is his iconic status not only in music, but as a global figure. What’s so prevalent now in music — the drama, the cross-dressing, the general weirdness and the free rein for any artist to explore their own sense of freedom and self-expression, David Bowie was doing that 40 years ago.
To say that he was ahead of his time isn’t just an understatement, but an injustice to the real impact he had on our culture. Nearly every artist that exists today was inspired by David Bowie in some way, and that’s the reason why any one with a social media presence took to the Internet today to express their grief over his death on Monday.
“I can never express into words how you will continue to inspire me… Thank you for showing a pimple-faced, curly-mopped kid that DIFFERENT was the THING TO BE.
A GENIUS for the ages and the ages to come.”
Those were the words typed by Justin Timberlake on his Instagram page. He was just one of the many who paid tribute. And those memorials came from not only musicians, but from politicians, to religious leaders, to astronauts.
Read any obituary on David Bowie, or survey his extensive discography, and one thing is made immediately clear — he left his mark. Death is always sad, obviously, but if the deceased lived a long and fulfilling life spent sharing their craft with the world, with the evidence to show, then it can also be a cause for celebration.
Don’t be ashamed if you’re not familiar with David Bowie’s work. I’m not. But I look at this as an opportunity to dive in and see for myself what all the fuss is about.
I received a $10 iTunes gift card for Christmas, and I spent all but one cent of it today on a David Bowie compilation album. I’m clearly not the only one, as sales of his music have soared — including his final album, “Blackstar,” released two days ago on his 69th birthday.
Bowie was known for his ever-changing look, and his tendency to push conventional boundaries and challenge social norms. As someone who has sported a completely generic look his whole life (besides that one experimental phase in middle school when I bleached my hair, but let’s not talk about that), I can’t say that his exploits really left a true mark on me.
But for all the people in the world who don’t feel comfortable in their own skin, and who often felt misunderstood by all those around them, well, it’s easy understand why they may have found a kindred spirit in David Bowie.
Her may be gone, but he left behind 66 albums for us to enjoy.
And now is when the fun begins.