Andy Howells recalls the work of David Bowie who died earlier this week.
Inspiring, innovative, extraordinary, genius, artist.
All words used to describe David Bowie in the endless tributes that were written about him as news of his death reached the internet and social media earlier this week.
The word artist, I feel, is very loosely used these days. Everyone can claim to excel at a particular art, but few can master many of them, and then go on to inspire and influence others. Bowie clearly did all this in the world of music, film, fashion and popular culture.
His rise to fame wasn’t overnight, like The Beatles before him; he was working as a musician for several years before he broke into the charts with his original rendition of Space Oddity in 1969.
As the 1970s beckoned, Bowie raised the bar in style, sound and vision. He dared to be different in look and feel, generating many imitators while drawing many admirers.
There was something fresh, colourful and vibrant about his persona. Be it a colourful shimmering appearance on Top of the Pops, an eye catching poster or for those who were lucky enough to see him – a live show. But on any level, whether you were a die hard fan, or someone who simply let songs such as Starman, The Jean Genie, Heroes or Ashes to Ashes filter into life’s everyday soundtrack, Bowie was and continues to be accessible.
The poetic surrealism of his 1971 hit Life on Mars spoke to you if you were five or forty five. Mickey Mouse and John Lennon went hand in hand with Ibiza and the Norfolk Broads and immediately sent your imagination on a journey somewhere else. Ironically, over three decades after its release, Life on Mars gave its name to a cult TV series in which it took its central character back in time to a surreal life and death experience in 1973. The passage of time ultimately revealed that Life on Mars clearly had the ability to take us away from life in the 70s as well as back to it.
Bowie’s music has continued to break boundaries, because like him, it was real and indefinable. No other artist could reach generations of music lovers by recording with acts as diverse as Bing Crosby, John Lennon, Queen and Iggy Pop.
He released his final album, Black Star only two days before his death. Now it is there to be enjoyed alongside the sagas of Ziggy Stardust and Major Tom on countless classic albums available on whatever format we choose.
One thing remains certain amongst those of us who feel any measure of grief at Bowie’s loss, like the world, his music will continue to spin and inspire generations to come, itself a real legacy to be proud of.
- Andy Howells is a freelance writer. This personal tribute to David Bowie was published in The South Wales Argus entertainment supplement The Guide on January 16, 2015.