By William Kennedy
Legendary space oddity David Bowie died Sunday in Manhattan, NY after an 18 month battle with cancer.
Bowie was a global icon that contributed to music and fashion so much over the course of his 50-year career that his look, sound and theatrics became synonymous with pop culture. During his career, Bowie constantly redesigned his image and sound through the creation of several characters, most notably “Ziggy Stardust,” “Aladdin Sane” and “The Thin White Duke.” Bowie’s life was one of wild experimentation whether it was drugs, booze, musical genres or sexuality and was also unapologetically original (something that embodies the essence of the human spirit while still being such an alien concept to most).
“Space Oddity” was one of his earliest hits and was a fitting phrase to describe him as cosmic grace and originality made him seem like a visitor from another world. Bowie’s influence is something difficult to quantify as he inspired countless artists over his five decade career including Madonna, Lady Gaga, Marilyn Manson, Steven Wilson, The Killers and Radiohead (just to name a few).
Born David Jones in Brixton, London, England on January 8th 1947, the singer changed his name in the 60’s to avoid confusion with Davy Jones of The Monkees. In his lifetime, Bowie released 26 studio albums that ranged from pop, rock and alternative to new wave with electronic, funk and soul flairs.
Bowie had numerous collaborations with other artists throughout his career, working with The Rolling Stones’ Mick Jagger for the single “Dancing in the Street,” Queen’s Freddie Mercury for “Under Pressure,” John Lennon for “Fame” and Trent Reznor for a remix of “I’m afraid of Americans.” Bowie performed at the 1985 “Live Aid” concert to raise funds for an ongoing Ethiopian famine. In 1987, he performed in a divided Berlin where his track “Heroes” became an anthem for the tensions during the cold war. A lyrical selection from heroes is as follows:
“I can remember (I remember)
Standing, by the wall (by the wall)
And the guns, shot above our heads (over our heads)
And we kissed, as though nothing could fall (nothing could fall)
And the shame, was on the other side
Oh we can beat them, forever and ever
Then we could be heroes, just for one day”
When asked about the performance Bowie claimed, “It was one of the most emotional performances I’ve ever done. I was in tears.”
Shortly after, Bowie met Somali fashion supermodel Iman. They wed in 1992 and had their only child, Alexandria Zahra Jones in 2000. Both Bowie and Iman had children from previous marriages.
Bowie also pursued an acting career, appearing in such films as “The Man Who Fell to Earth (1976),” “Labyrinth (1986)” and “Basquiat (1996).” His music has appeared in countless movies and television shows to this day, some of which he had written for (such as a 2015 episode of “Mad Men,” in which he also performed).
Bowie was diagnosed with cancer of the liver in 2014. He released his final studio album “Blackstar” in 2016 on his 69th birthday. Two days later, the man known as “Ziggy Stardust” went to his cosmic paradise for the last time. Bowie is survived by his second wife, Iman Mohamed Abdulmajid, and children Duncan, and Alexandria Jones.