David Bowie is dead.
This news shocked me awake two weeks ago on that Monday morning. I couldn’t believe it – still can’t. Tears and tributes and total disbelief from around the world, as social media exploded with the news.David Bowie is still in the news, a full fortnight after his death, with his first number one album and his music dominating the rest of the charts.
At the heart of this, is still the grief and disbelief.
There’s something about mourning someone you’ve never known personally.
There’s also something about mourning someone who had an enormous impact on so many lives for DECADES on a global scale in music, art, movies, fashion, and culture as a whole.
And, then there’s the knowledge that you’re not alone in your grief – that you and millions of others are collectively in a mindset of sadness, but remembrance.
It’s a powerful force.
David Bowie WAS a force. For five decades, Bowie continuously evolved and reinvented himself, emerging as a fresh extension of his former self, exploring places and subjects others feared to face.
It’s difficult to describe my feelings, swirling in a multi-colored nebula of stardust and glitter, trekking through a forest of loneliness and self-discovery. He was a guide, a psychopomp to generations, leading us into birthing new versions of ourselves – in thought, life, creative endeavors, and business.
For me, it started with The Rise and Fall of Ziggy Stardust and the Spiders from Mars. As a nine-year old, I’d never seen anything like Bowie/Ziggy before. I loved boy bands, but oh – the glitter and glam of Stardust Spiders hypnotized me. His first appearance on The Midnight Special (for those of you too young to remember that show … I’m sorry!), changed the face of rock forever.
On Diamond Dogs (probably my favorite album), Bowie sings of a post-apocalyptic , Orwellian-inspired Manhattan. Bowie’s eerie, spoken lyrics in Future Legend tell of “fleas were the size of rats and sucked on rats the size of cats,” and the words,
“Like packs of dogs assaulting the glass fronts of Love-Me Avenue
Ripping and rewrapping mink and shiny silver fox, now legwarmers,”
have stayed with me over 40 years after I first heard them. Not sure why, but his post-apocalyptic glitter visions made him a mystical messiah. He was dystopian, before it was de riguer in books, movie, and culture.
And I’m not the only one impacted by Bowie, with songs and style with staying power.
That’s saying something.
What does Bowie and his long and glittering career demonstrate to everyone – fan or not – about motivation?
Reinvention is the engine of growth. Bowie recognized this early in his career – and it became a something fans looked forward to. Who would Bowie be next? What new songs, style, and outlook would he give us?
Reinvention in the face of criticism and other expectations is scary. Bowie retired Ziggy Stardust at his zenith, shocking fans and critics alike. Ziggy was huge – HUGE. So huge, that Ziggy overshadowed all the other stars twinkling in the shadows and deepest depths of his creator’s soul. But for Bowie, it was time to move, to grow, to evolve.
Evolution and Transformation
Life is evolution. Evolve or die. Evolution of emotions, of ideas, of spirit. You are not the same person you were at 16. At 25. At 38. If you are, then there is something terribly, terribly wrong. That is truth, and the way of the world. A body or mind or spirit in stasis doesn’t grow. It deteriorates, devolving into pale shades of wasted potential.
From Major Tom, to Ziggy Stardust, to Aladdin Sane, to the Thin White Duke, to the Goblin King, David Bowie evolved, transforming his music, his look, his masks and persona – taking us along with him. You transformed or you didn’t – along with him. Simple. Bowie’s transformations were overt, donning masks and costumes. Attention grabbed: check! Once riveted by the new persona, songs were played over and over, lyrics pulling the listener deeper and deeper, sparking a new awareness within.
Reinvention: Face and Embrace Ch-ch-changes
CH-ch-ch-changes. Everything changes, and to fully live life it’s in our best interest to realize that change is the one constant. Bowie knew this. He reinvented himself consciously and creatively over and over. Embrace change & embrace the inevitable (death). Bowie embraced change within the culture. He embraced it, massaged it, grew it, and gave it back to us – forcing change in us and the culture from which he took the seeds of ideas. He did that right to the end of his mortal life. As he faced impending death, he embraced the process. Death and transformation set to a powerful, eerie soundtrack with video, allowing us to glimpse the soul of a messenger heralding his final journey.
That’s powerful stuff.
Magic and Masks
Wear many masks, but stay true to yourself. David Bowie was a master of this. He knew the secret: to be an expert mask-maker, you first have to know who you are – and be okay with it. Make the mask and wear it with gusto! Bowie made magic with his life and shared it with others, encouraging and exploring the good, the bad, and the ugly of our existence.
Rebellion and Defiance
Rebel against convention and defy labels and stereotypes. Bowie was the ultimate non-conformist – an unapologetic artist. Create art for personal and spiritual fulfillment – chances are you’ll hit a universal nerve. You may think you’re alone in your ideas or feelings, but you’re not. Bowie knew this. By tapping into his own soul, he expressed for us what so many cannot. The mark of a modern day shaman.
Fabulous and Fearless
Live your life on your own terms – and go out on your own terms, too. Bowie did. In the face of critics and haters throughout the years, Bowie stayed true to his own self. He looked and acted fabulous in his fearlessness. A fearless quality which at times explored the ugly side of life, giving it a voice and a platform in which we could all share, nodding our heads and emphatically stating, “Yes, I’ve been there.”
Look beyond your situation to the stars. Bowie did. In the months before his death, he worked furiously to deliver the last album of his career – and his first #1 (posthumously). Did it matter to him if it was number one? Probably not. Did it matter to him if it impacted millions? Most likely. As has been said, it was his last gift to the world – a musical exploration into a human being actively participating in his own transition from this world to the next.
David Bowie will ALWAYS be a force – an otherworldly messenger who fell to Earth for a short time, spreading stardust and inspiration.
David Bowie isn’t dead.
His journey continues, stepping over the threshold into the infinite.
No, David Bowie isn’t dead.
He’s alive in every song he wrote and sang; he’s alive in every single one of us whose lives were changed in ways we never expected.
Thank you, Starman. You will be missed.
By Syndee Barwick