David Bowie is the epitome of the title Rock Star. January 8th, 2016 was the celebration of his 69th birthday and release of his 20th & latest album “Blackstar”. However, just two days later we were devastated to hear of his death. A statement was announced January 11th on his social media accounts that he “died peacefully surrounded by family” after an “18 months battle with Cancer”. This news was devastatingly confirmed by his son, Bafta winning film director Duncan Jones “very sorry and sad to say its true. I’ll be offline for a while. Love to all”.
After waking up to the news that Monday morning, I had to wear my Ziggy Stardust t-shirt and put on Bowie’s greatest hits. I sat and absorbed the flood of instagram tributes that day along with emotional tweets and Facebook posts. He clearly touched the lives of many people from all generations. I’m sure others like myself were shocked by the news as we felt he was invincible. Simply immortal like all true legends.
A BBC.com article describes: “David Bowie was one of the most influential musicians of his time, constantly re-inventing his persona and sound, from the 1960’s hippy of space oddity, through Ziggy Stardust and the thin white duke to his later incarnation as a soulful rocker”.
That was a day for wishing I was back home in London. My husband and I instantly were craving the sounds of Bowie that would be heard everywhere, from the Radio and TV and over the sound systems of shops. I was itching my hands to get hold of the newspaper special editions and waiting for the announcement of TV tributes. My heart instantly warmed to the sight of the Brixton Ritzy hall photographed with their dedication to Bowie.
The BBC commented ” He defied any label. Music, fashion, sexuality: all were Bowie’s playthings. He was truly an artistic chameleon”
It is estimated that David Bowie has sold 140 million albums since his first release in 1967.
“David Bowie was the Picasso of pop. He was an innovative, visionary, restless artist: the ultimate ever-changing postmodernist” Will Gompertz, BBC arts editor
Born David Robert Jones in Brixton, London, on January 8th 1947. He became interested in music and performing at a young age and formed his first band when he was 15 years old. He started out under the name of Davy Jones but later reinvented himself as David Bowie in 1966, to avoid confusion with Davy Jones of the Monkees. David Bowie went on to become a legend of both music and style, Iconic and unique. No one can be compared with Bowie.
A history of style and adventure for Bowie
Bowie clearly influenced many with his eccentricity, style and trend inspiration to both men and women. French designer, Jean Paul Gaultier states “He inspired me with his creativity, his extravagance, his sense of fashion that he was constantly reinventing, by his allure, his elegance and his play on gender”. Bowie’s death fell on the day of the Burberry runway show. Christopher Bailey, Chief creative officer of Burberry, had his male models eyes painted with glitter in homage and saw one his models walking down the runway with open hands marked “Bowie”. Shaun Cole of the London College of Fashion, commented during the “David Bowie is” Retrospective exhibit at the V&A museum in 2013 “He didn’t just happen to be there at the right time; he was like a sponge, absorbing influences, turning them around, reiterating and using them in his own way to make an impact. And he always knew what was going to happen”.
Bowie: The young Mod
Bowie began his style years with Mod dressing. These were his years of consistent and countless efforts to try to ‘make it’ on the music scene. He posed with a model friend for Boyfriend magazine in the summer of 1963. His mod style was the beginning of him going against the grain of every day style in the British 60’s. But as his music evolved so did his style, to lengths that were not him dressing in drag as a woman but more about him dressing for his taste in eccentric glamour and artistic weirdness. Bowie seemed to always dress for the future, always ahead of his time in style. But style that I feel became a classic influence on the way we dress today.
Bowie: Hippy Pre-Raphaelite
1968-71 Space Oddity to Hunky Dory
This is the time that David begins to confront us with his style as a music artist and through his performances. In July 1969 Bowie releases Space Oddity five days before the Apollo 11 Launch, it subsequently becomes a UK top hit. Bowie has a softer hippy vibe at this point. He appears on the album cover of The Man Who Sold Us The World, lounging and wearing a ‘man dress’ with long pre-Raphaelite hair. This was a huge statement back in the 70’s and an initial taster of Bowie starting the conversation of the play on gender. In May 1970 Bowie Marries Angela Barnett and in 1971 they have a son, Zowie Bowie who now goes by Duncan Jones. When you see images of David pushing the pram in a dress on the street, you can imagine how controversial this would have been. He was always comfortable challenging conformity. But he got the world starting to think about gender, sexuality and the ‘outsider’ culture.
Bowie: Glam rock
1972-73 Ziggy Stardust
In a BBC Newsnight program interview with Jeremy Paxman, 1999, Bowie explains his motive behind his varied personas “I was not a natural performer. I didn’t feel at ease on stage, I felt very comfortable going on stage as someone else. And it seemed a rational decision to keep on doing that. I got so besotted with the idea of creating character after character”
Bowie clearly paved the way for the 70’s Glam rock. In June 72 he released the album The Rise and Fall of Ziggy stardust and the Spiders from Mars. Ziggy stardust went on top of the pops to perform ‘Starman’ displaying his dyed bright red spiked hair and glitter clad costume. If this was not shocking enough for the beginning of the 70’s, he then put his arm around the guitarist whilst performing. This would mean nothing today but most probably had people talking and questioning after the performance. The birth of his alien alter-ego makes him an international star. The lightning bolt is believed to represent the duality of the mind, although Bowie later gives us a theory into the title track of Aladdin Sane, (a lad insane) being inspired by his brother Terry, who had been diagnosed with Schizophrenia.
Ziggy Stardust was his iconic flamboyant alter-ego who would catapult him to stardom. Unfortunately, Ziggy became so dominating and successful that it began to cost Bowie his health and emotional stability during that period. He broke hearts and shocked fellow band members when he declared at a London Hammersmith Odeon gig that he would be retiring Ziggy Stardust. Ziggy is still one of the greatest iconic images of popular culture. Kate Moss did her Ziggy modelling shoot for the Vogue magazine front cover, in May 2003.
Bowie: The thin white Duke
1974-76 The thin white duke
Saying goodbye to Ziggy did not halt the success of the hit albums to follow: Aladdin Sane (1973) Pin ups (1973) and Diamond dogs (1974). He moved to the US in 1975 and gravitated towards a soul and funk sound. He had his first US number one with Fame, a song he collaborated on with John Lennon. He became a familiar face spotted on the New York social party scene. The style of the thin white duke was a complete contrast to Ziggy. Classic and understated black and white tailoring showcased his talent on stage and portrayed the deep dark soul sound of his music. Some say it had a touch of vampire aesthetic. Bowie continues to push style boundaries.
1976-79 The Berlin era
Bowie’s drug addiction and interest in the german music scene prompted his move to Berlin in 1976 where he was joined by Iggy Pop in 77, who was battling his own heroin addiction. Bowie produced and co-wrote Pop’s albums ‘The idiot’ and ‘Lust for life’. Bowie continued his own work and amongst others, the iconic song “Heroes” was born. As he emerged himself in the city art and music scene, he went for a more parred-back look leaving the glitter behind him. His style began to adapt a touch of tailoring with sharp suits and textiles. He wore shoulder pads in double-breasted jackets or T-shirts with baggy dress pants. He embraced deep flouncy and fluid fabrics. His Pierrot clown costume worn for Ashes to Ashes paved the way for the new romantic style and era. This was probably influenced from his early career days of mime performance on the stage during a period of working and travelling with Lindsay Kemp.
Bowie was appealing, accessible and meant something different to everyone. For me, his style, his approach to fashion and wearing art was invincible. He reminds me of the style approach of Audrey Hepburn. They both embraced androgyny. They paved the way for new trends and demolished the style rules that we thought we should comply with. Despite how outrageous he would appear during those periods of time, he always looks at ease and comfortable with that style bubble he was locked in. He owned that style and made it nothing to fear. Clothing didn’t seem to be just how he looked but was also about how he felt. He would take anything and defy it. In his eyes there were never any boundaries in the first place, let alone any to knock down. He proved suits weren’t just for men and that platform shoes weren’t just for women. He embraced colour, bold patterns, glitter, flares, silk and Gold with open arms. He once said in an interview: “I am a collector. I collect personalities”
I was interested to discover that he declined the royal honour of Commander of the Order of the British Empire in 2001 and also turned down a knighthood in 2005. When questioned about this decision he replied ” I would never have any intention of accepting anything like that. I seriously don’t know what it’s for. It’s not what I spent my life working for”
Bowie: the king of dapper
I adore the dapper look of Bowie’s latter style years. He will always be a style legend in my eyes.
When watching the Blackstar title track video “Lazarus” it’s hard not to feel haunted by it. The opening lyrics are “look up here, I’m in heaven”. He clearly had a mission in mind with his final piece of music left as a legacy for us. At the news of Bowie’s death, his producer, Tony Visconti wrote: “He always did what he wanted to do. And he wanted to do it his way and he wanted to do it the best way. His death was no different from his life – a work of art. He made Blackstar for us, his parting gift. I knew for a year this was the way it would be. I wasn’t however, prepared for it. He was an extraordinary man full of love and life. He will always be with us. For now, it’s appropriate to cry.”
I love a bit of Bowie
We all have a Bowie song that is ingrained in our hearts that we relate to a style or a moment in time. My personal ultimate favourite Bowie song is ‘Rebel Rebel’. I insisted it was played at my wedding and I adore my mirror that hangs in my house with the song lyrics emblazoned on it. Nothing quite hits me like a bit of Ziggy Stardust. The gold, the glitter, the reds, the angles and the craziness. My husband’s favourite Bowie song is ‘Heroes’. Again, another epic song that epitomizes Bowie’s talent.
A magnificent David Bowie quote to finish on: ” I don’t know where I’m going from here. But I promise it won’t be boring.”
Rest in peace David Bowie xx
*All above David Bowie photos gathered from Pinterest unless stated otherwise*