Bowie, Creativity, and Heroism
The death of David Bowie on 10th January affected me in a way I had not expected. The nature of celebrity, and all the nauseating associations with the word in 2016 have somewhat desensitised me from any particular affinity to ‘the famous’. But Bowie transcended all of that nonsense (see Fame “Fame, puts you there where things are hollow”), and even in his death managed to make a truly artistic statement.
It is only relatively recently that I have discovered the genius of his work, having heard many of his songs on the radio over the years. But, at the very point of seeing the newsflash on my iPhone screen on the morning of the 11th January, it was as though I was being made to suddenly realise and appreciate what we were lucky enough to have experienced.
There was no public announcement of his deterioration, and he managed to spend his later years in relative anonymity. This being of his own choosing. I am not sure there are many people as well known and publicly lauded as he, who would opt to do the same. He seemed committed to his wife and to his family, and perhaps in older age to have discovered true happiness. I don’t know, none of us really do, but that is how it seemed.
This confidence to do what he wanted to do, and on his own terms, both in his career and personal life, marks him out as an exceptional individual, and one whom I admire immensely though posthumously.
To know you are dying and to commit to an incredible final album which lyrically addresses the issue of mortality head on and effectively says goodbye to the world, is an indication of what I perceive to be the driving force within his life.
An hour spent on youtube looking up Bowie clips (which he predicted in the year 2000 people would do, having launched his own website prior to this and before almost any other artist, in this interview Bowie and the Internet) will tell you the same. He was ferociously creative.
No other artist has had such success with personas musically, and yet he was also an accomplished and admired actor, writer, and tech-geek. He seemed insatiably driven, and seriously talented. A powerful combination, but with Bowie there always seemed a fragility too, that allowed you to warm to him. He rarely appeared egotistical, and was often self-deprecating when discussing his own works.
Read what his collaborators say about him and you will find that he was an eminently genial and encouraging man. Read what musicians say about him, and you will find him universally lauded. Read what he wrote himself, and you will find poetry, incisive commentary, articulate narratives, complex themes, dangerous subject matter, provocative prose.
I was lucky enough to see the Victoria and Albert exhibition dedicated to the influence of Bowie, and one would have to have been culturally empty to not appreciate the impact he had on British life in particular.
This is a man who placed transgender issues on our tv screens forty years ago. How much progress has been made in this area?
He tackled MTV head on about what he perceived as institutional racism within the organisation Bowie and MTV decades ago.
He also managed to harness the power of the internet artistically before Spotify existed. Indeed he appeared capable of exploiting the power of most media. When asked in 1998 by Vanity Fair, who were his heroes in real life he responded “the consumer”. Not only was he artistically celebrated, he was also commercially astute, and successful. He stayed true to his arts, and people loved it.
What can we take from this? So much, that it would be a disservice for to try and write it down here, but what I want to learn from his life, is that there are values we can cling to and be happy. Be creative, be sincere, be humble, be honest, be hardworking, be loyal, be different, be intelligent, be a rebel, be a hero..Bowie Heroes