8 Ways David Bowie Inspires the Next Generation of Artists and Musicians

The beginning of each new year comes with reflecting on the past while looking to the future for what’s to come. Since that fateful day in 2016 (January 10th), I set aside time every January to think about the passing of legendary and beloved David Bowie and how he left us for the stars. However, his influence continues to live on in beautiful ways. He can be commemorated not just in January, but every day.

Here are eight ways David Bowie’s legacy is an inspiration for artists, musicians, and fashion designers the world over.

1. Fight Fast and Forgive Faster

Close-ups of Bowie’s face reveal that one eye remained permanently dilated. The story: He got into a fistfight over a girl with his childhood friend George Underwood. During the fight, Underwood punched Bowie in the eye, forever damaging it. Underwood went on to design some of Bowie’s early album art, showcasing that two people can fight, forgive, and move forward.

2. Collaborate with Everyone

Throughout Bowie’s life, he continued to collaborate with people who others would consider competitors. He and John Lennon of the Beatles co-wrote “Fame,” with Lennon lending his vocals to the track. A few years later, Chic’s Nile Rodgers produced one of Bowie’s best-selling albums, Let’s Dance. Bowie’s relationship with the two men displays how working with the so-called competition can lead to dazzling results.

3. Find Inspiration Everywhere

Besides collaborating with other artists, Bowie holds a reputation for dabbling in different art forms. For one example, some people might not know that Bowie formed an experimental ensemble called Feathers in the late sixties. The group employed music, mime, and other mediums to express their ideas. Inspiring his music and fashion sense, Bowie’s ongoing collaborations and experimentation also show how inspiration can arise from the strangest of mixes.

Photo by Luca Dugaro on Unsplash

4. Change Your Name When It Makes Sense

As a more personal aspect, some people may think David Robert Jones changed his name to “Bowie” as a mark of individuality. And while that may have been a part of his decision-making process, Bowie actually altered his name to avoid being confused with the Monkees’ Davy Jones. His choice shows foresight and reminds artists and designers to think through names for themselves, their companies, or their products.

5. Think in Story Arcs

Taking his persona even further than his name, Bowie perceived music as performance art. He entered every album with a new character, backstory, props, fashions, lighting, and music style. Ziggy Stardust may be his best-known character, but Bowie developed other ones throughout his career. (Goblin King, anyone?) People still remember Stardust, which demonstrates how creating a credible, authentic character — no matter how strange — forms long-lasting memories and often motivates action.

6. Be Original by Being Yourself

This idea may seem to contrast with his name change, but Bowie also proves originality can spawn from simply being yourself. “Be yourself” sounds trite, but Bowie never apologized for who he was — or for his long hair — and in so doing created a personality that informed not only diverse music styles but also runways and clubs. His personality, like anyone’s, constantly evolved in response to his interests and activities, resulting in an always-relevant stage presence.

Photo by David Preston on Unsplash

7. Embrace the Cutting Edge

Bowie also maintained a reputation for originality by doing things never done before, such as releasing music through different mediums. In 1996, Bowie released an internet-only single, “Telling Lies,” long before most artists were even thinking about the internet or how it would affect their music. Bowie’s actions cemented his popularity with fans around the world, showing it pays to pay attention to and capitalize on current trends.

8. Never Stop Creating

After Bowie suffered a heart attack during a tour in 2004, he retreated from the stage. He did not, however, abstain from the creative life. Eleven years later, his Lazarus opened in New York. He also released his final album, Blackstar, two days before his death in 2016. These last years of creativity have even inspired an HBO documentary, David Bowie: The Last Five Years, released in January of last year. Through the documentary, Bowie fans can watch how his final spurts of creativity point to a fulfilled life, one that was spent being inspired and inspiring others.

David Bowie continues to stand as one of the greatest musicians of all time. That testament, though, may not be entirely due to his music. Rather, it stems from a man who used his art to transform the world around him. So here’s to Bowie, a man who not only reached for the stars but also attained them.