By now, you’ve probably heard the sad news that rocker and music legend David Bowie (born David Robert Jones) has passed away. The singer lost his 18-month long battle with liver cancer on January 10, 2016, just two days after his 69th birthday. Bowie is known for being one of the most recognized artists in the “glam rock” genre, and often recorded eccentric music videos with elaborate storylines and several underlying meanings.
Over his career, which spanned more than 50 years, David Bowie made significant strides in the music world. Aside from being very daring when it came to fashion (he had no problem dressing in drag) and wowing the world with new musical concepts, he also spoke out against several social issues and took his role as an agent of change in the world very seriously. It is also notable that he was married to supermodel Iman for more than 20 years and it was well known that his love for her was undying. A marriage that lasts that long is remarkable even for people who aren’t famous, but is especially impressive for celebrities. The couple had a daughter together, and each of them had a child from previous relationships, but it was clear that their family unit was strong. David Bowie will definitely be missed. Here are 12 of the ways the musician changed the world.
12. He Inspired Several Generations Of Musicians
David Bowie was born in Brixton to working class parents. He was also born in a time when people in his social class were expected to go to school, get decent jobs and live pretty average lives. Bowie’s fearlessness when it came to his music inspired a number of other musicians, including Janelle Monae and Adam Lambert—two artists with powerhouse voices and messages who are definitely on their way to icon status. Rockers from previous generations, such as Guns N’ Roses and Aerosmith were also influenced by David Bowie’s sound and boldness, and we don’t even have to explain how legendary these bands are.
11. His Live Performances Influenced Pop Culture
David Bowie was not only a master when it came to recording songs, but also gave some very inspiring live performances. One of his most noteworthy performances was his rendition of “Starman” in July of 1972, when he broke both music and fashion boundaries. If you’re a long-time fan of Bowie’s work, you likely remember the jumpsuit and bright red hair that made this performance even more iconic. Bowie showed everyone that it was okay to play with color and texture, both with his voice and his appearance. This is why several current artists, such Leona Lewis, admire his fashion sense and the confidence he possessed.
10. He Always Gave A Phenomenal Show (Technically)
Bowie not only wanted to be great at his skill, he wanted greatness for the people who worked with him as well. The Spider From Mars, Bowie’s backing band in the 1970s, went on a “field trip” to the ballet with David to see how to use multi-colored lighting during a show. David Bowie wanted his live shows to be an experience that engaged every part of the senses, and lighting was a great way to do this. During the 70s, the lighting for rock concerts was mainly red and green, but David Bowie, being the game-changer that he was, changed all that with just one trip to the ballet.
9. He Created A Subterranean “Language”
At the end of Bowie’s 1997 album Low, there is an instrumental track. However, near the end of the track, David Bowie speaks a language he created. It was definitely a groundbreaking moment. David said that he’d become “intolerably bored” with the lyrics to standard rock songs at the time, and decided to use what was called a “cut-up” technique as a form of creative expression the album. The technique was made popular by William C. Burroughs, who was one of David Bowie’s idols. So, not only was David Bowie a force to be reckoned with in music, he wasn’t too arrogant to admit that he had musical heroes as well.
8. He Created His Own Music “Feelings”
David Bowie was many things to many fans, but one thing he could never be accused of is being boring. He changed up his musical style on virtually every album he made. During his Space Oddity album, he attracted fans who wanted to feel something magical when listening to music. During the “Changes” era, Bowie’s music was a little more mellow, and had a thought-provoking message that made people think about life in a different way. With every musical project, David Bowie set out to get people to be inspired by all the things that make us beautiful and different, and he was creative enough to find several new ways to do this with each album.
7. He Constantly Changed His Look And Persona
These days, it seems that if a celebrity makes drastic changes to his/her look, it could come with a lot of criticism. Sure, people had negative things to say about David Bowie’s ever-changing personas, but his fans were so enthralled with the way he expressed himself that he definitely influenced the artists who would come after him. We’re pretty sure we’ve seen some Bowie-inspired looks from artists like Lady Gaga and Katy Perry, and rockers like Steven Tyler from Aerosmith have been playing with the androgynous look for quite some time. David Bowie also went by many different names as he continued to reinvent himself during his career. If you’ve been a Bowie fan for a long time, you may know him as Ziggy Stardust or the Thin White Duke.
6. He Made A Statement With Androgyny
David Bowie is credited with being one of the musicians who took the stigma away from androgyny. There was even a time when he preferred wearing dresses from the thrift store. When he was just 17, he had an organization called the Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Long-Haired Men. He stated that he and other members of the society were getting negative and sexist comments from people, and he didn’t want men who chose to wear their hair long to be “persecuted.” Bowie wanted to change the public’s perception of what it meant to be masculine, and was able to maintain an alluring persona that attracted all of his fans—no matter what he was wearing.
5. He Was A Champion For Outsiders
Throughout his career, David Bowie made it known that he was a supporter of people who would be considered underdogs or outsiders. It was evident in the way he dressed, and in the songs he wrote. Bowie even penned a song called “Kooks” in 1971, which indicated that non-traditional parents could still be great caretakers for their children. The song was on the album Hunky Dory, and had an air of optimism on the subjects of parenting and family structure (Bowie was married to his first wife Angie at the time of the album’s release). The fact that David Bowie sent the message that humans should be more accepting of one another had a profound impact on music, and got a lot of attention in society in general.
4. His Music Was The Soundtrack To The Moon Landing
David Bowie’s music has been the soundtrack to many great times in people’s lives. However, “Space Oddity” was used by BBC as the soundtrack to the moon landing. Bowie didn’t initially want to give the network permission to use his song, just in case the 1969 landing of Apollo 11 was a failure. After all, the song is about an astronaut named Major Tom who ends up floating in space forever, so we can understand Bowie’s concern. However, he took a risk, which was a recurring theme in his career, and his decision to allow BBC to use his music proved to be a great one. This monumental choice further solidified his icon status.
3. He Was Knows As The “Picasso of Rock n’ Roll”
Music producer Neil Rogers has referred to David Bowie as the “Picasso of rock n’ roll.” Rogers states that Bowie definitely saw the world in a very abstract way, but was still able to be realistic in his worldview. When it came to how he wanted to package himself as an artist, Rogers says Bowie “wanted something that would always look modern.” The bright colors, mixture of dark and light in sentiment and artistic expression, and other-worldly feel that David Bowie exhibited as a singer is an art that will likely never be duplicated, just like the work of famed artist Picasso.
2. He Was Scientifically Intelligent
Bowie often mixed pop culture with science fiction, especially after he released “Space Oddity.” He was also a visionary when it came to technology, and even ventured to create his own internet service provider in 1998 called BowieNet. The service provider gave users the opportunity to create their own online networks through musical interests, and to make personal web pages. Perhaps he saw the future and how important the internet would be in the coming years, and wanted to put his creative spin in the future of technology. Not many other artists can say that, and he proved, once again, that he was way ahead of his time in more ways than one.
1. He Spoke Out Against Inequality
During an interview on MTV in the 1980s, David Bowie had the boldness to ask why more Black artists were not being featured on the network. He criticized the interview for the fact that MTV did not show enough videos by Black singers, and openly disputed the interviewer (Mark Goodman) when Goodman tried to suggest that White viewers in the Midwest may be a little afraid of “black faces.” He was also a spokesperson for Civil Rights, spoke out against the action of the Nazis and defended the rights of indigenous people. Bowie truly understood that harmony and mutual respect were the keys to a beautiful society, and his fans will likely always be inspired by his philosophies.