David Bowie: Its Ok to be Different (part1)

Bowie redefined what it was to be a rock star.

Bowie redefined what it was to be a rock star.

Written by

Jude Bautista

With the recent passing of David Bowie last January 10, 2016, a look back at the achievements of a true artist and icon spanning six decades, in several art forms is a must. Read Part 1Its Ok to be Different, Part 2 – Sexual Mystique, Part 3 –Rock Theater.

Hearing of David Bowie’s death from liver cancer last Sunday January 10, 2016 was a complete shock. In the Philippines we were reeling from the loss of PDI founder Letty Jimenez Magsanoc (December 25) and just a few days before Bowie – Kuya Germs (January 8).

Bowie dressed to kill at LIVE AID 1985

Bowie dressed to kill at LIVE AID 1985

While there have been no details of his cancer from the family producer (and former band mate) Tony Visconti shared with Rolling Stone that Bowie still wanted to make another album after his current release Black Star. Visconti was aware that Bowie had been undergoing chemotherapy.

David Bowie’s latest album BLACK STAR shot to no.1 even before he passed away.

David Bowie’s latest album BLACK STAR shot to no.1 even before he passed away.

The New York Times reported that a memorial concert in his honor is scheduled on March 31st at New York’s Carnegie Hall. Artists include. The Roots, Cyndi Lauper, the Mountain Goats, Heart’s Ann Wilson, Perry Farrell, Jakob Dylan. There may be even more artists participating who want to honor this creative genius.

Bowie was one of the first artists to embrace the new medium of music videos in 1981 and Mtv. He was also an advocate of the Internet before it was fashionable.

Bowie was one of the first artists to embrace the new medium of music videos in 1981 and Mtv. He was also an advocate of the Internet before it was fashionable.

The first time I had seen or heard of David Bowie was as an 11 year old watching Betamax tapes of MTV brought from the U.S. in the early eighties. We didn’t even know the concept of the music video until we saw those shaky video images to Bowie’s MODERN LOVE, LET’S DANCE and CHINA GIRL. His look for that time was a blonde pompadour, as a cool 50s icon. I had no idea of who he was before that. We were just mesmerized with his look and music.

Modern Love

Even then his music resonated with a young adolescent like me. On the same tapes we’d see Boy George of CULTURE CLUB in complete drag and debate amongst ourselves if he really were a woman or man. And shake our heads in disbelief. Because the music was so catchy, so fun, like KARMA CHAMELEON, we didn’t really care if he was in a dress or not. As kids we just loved the music, the band, the whole show. Our minds were blown by the fact there were these 3-minute movies that accompanied, songs we were singing to. And there was a channel in the U.S. that showed nothing but music videos.

Culture Club Karma Chameleon

It was little later on that I found out that David Bowie was already in a dress and costumes creating androgynous characters a decade before Boy George did it. Back in 1971 he was famous for Ziggy Stardust. He had orange hair, shaved eyebrows, gaunt face, kabuki make up, the very definition of androgyny. One of his hits from that era STARMAN was recently revived in the film The MARTIAN with Matt Damon in 2015.

Bowie as Ziggy Stardust

Bowie as Ziggy Stardust

Music Transcends

I distinctly remember one of my older brother’s barkada say he didn’t like Bowie saying “Bakla yan” (He’s gay). In my young mind it was the first time I had even heard of the term or knew what it meant. None of it mattered because as kids we just loved his music.

Bowie wears Michael Fish design (1971)

Bowie wears Michael Fish design (1971)

I didn’t realize it back then. But that’s what music does it transcends prejudice or race or sexual orientation. Bowie was such a big deal because before him rock stars were this male heterosexual figure, from Elvis, The Beatles, Beach Boys and so on. Born David Jones he changed his last name to Bowie to distinguish himself from another iconic band The Monkees whose star was Davey Jones.

Teenaged Bowie poses for his early band the Kon-rads

Teenaged Bowie poses for his early band the Kon-rads

Musically he’s done it all- his career spanned 6 decades with 111 singles, 5 UK no1.s, 2 Brit awards and 2 Grammys. Prime Minister David Cameron speaking to Skynews said, “Genius is an overused word but musically, creatively, artistically David Bowie was a genius. For someone of my age he provided a lot of the soundtrack of our lives. From the first time I heard Space Oddity to watching our athletes appear in the wonderful Olympics to the strings of Heroes.”

Changes

With Ziggy Stardust, androgynous look from the 1970s through out, Bowie didn’t just influence Boy George but a whole generation of musicians. Ziggy was just the most famous but his transformation began with the album Space Oddity, then Hunky Dory which had the hit “Changes” whose cover already had Bowie in Blonde wig and drag. But Ziggy was only the most famous of his characters, ‘that changed what it meant to be a rock star’. (Skynews)

Bowie has permanently dilated left pupil after being punched by his schoolmate over a girl.

Bowie has permanently dilated left pupil after being punched by his schoolmate over a girl.

Ziggy farewell

Bowie killed off the character early even if it was the most popular and successful incarnation to date. Rolling Stone describes the significance, “They dressed like Bowie, in daring and glamorous outfits; they cut and dyed their hair to duplicate his shock-red mane; they made their faces pallid, and painted their eyes with radiant shimmer. These were the people, the outcasts, whom Bowie spoke to in “Changes,” when he sang, “And these children that you spit on/As they try to change their worlds/Are immune to your consultations/They’re quite aware what they’re going through…When he left the Odeon that night, he intended to leave Ziggy Stardust behind, but he would also leave behind the most important deed of his life: He had provided a model of courage to millions who had never been embraced by a popular culture hero before. He helped set others free in unexpected ways, even if he couldn’t do the same for himself.”

Bowie as Ziggy Stardust

Bowie as Ziggy Stardust

Bowie redefined what it was to be a rock star.

Bowie redefined what it was to be a rock star.

According to documentary David Bowie Sound and Vision (narrated by Jonathan Pryce), Bowie was himself influenced by Lou Reed, Iggy Pop and mime Lindsay Kemp. He combined all these and made it his own performance. 1972 Bowie fused everything he had learned in mime and theater created Ziggy Stardust. He said U.S. rock singer Vince Taylor was one of one of the essential ingredients. Taylor said there’s a connection between himself, UFOs and Jesus Christ. Photographer Mick Rock said, “There was Lindsay Kemp, Andy Warhol and a whole lot of David Bowie in Ziggy” Bowie found out that creating fictional characters gave him more freedom to express himself through music.

Starman

He made it cool. Its ok if you’re a guy and you want to wear a dress, put a wig on, put make up on. He predated the whole glam rock generation with long hair and eyeliners in the 1980s. It’s OK to be different because that is who we he was. Everyone from Duran Duran, The Smiths to Bon Jovi followed suit if not in look with the boldness of lyrics dealing with deeper issues of homosexuality, depression, social issues. Lady Gaga & Madonna have in a way patterned their own transformations to Bowie’s evolution.

Rebel Rebel

Madonna said, “He was one of the geniuses in the music industry, one of the greatest singer-songwriters of the 20th century, and he changed my life when I went to see him in concert in Detroit. He showed me that it was OK to be different. And he’s the first Rebel Heart that I laid eyes on.”

From left: Billy Idol, Sam Kinison, Madonna and David Bowie.

From left: Billy Idol, Sam Kinison, Madonna and David Bowie.

He created these characters not to fit in but to stand out. He had a very revealing BBC interview with Jeremy Paxman in 1999, “I’ve always been a curious and enthusiastic person, from when I was a teenager. It wasn’t up to me to identify what that meant. I just had to accept that I was a person who had a very short attention span move from one thing to another quite rapidly when I got bored with the other. I became comfortable with that. I didn’t try to identify myself or didn’t try to ask myself who I was. The less questioning I did about myself as to who I was the more comfortable I felt. So now I have no knowledge of who I am. I’m extremely happy.”

Bowie with Iman and daughter Alexandria who was born in 2000.

Bowie with Iman and daughter Alexandria who was born in 2000.

Bowie as the Thin White Duke

Bowie as the Thin White Duke

LOW, LODGER, HEROES

As the consummate artist Bowie did not allow himself to stagnate. 1976 he moved to an apartment in Berlin to kick his cocaine habit. He produced Iggy Pop’s album THE IDIOT and did a majority of the instruments himself. Along with his own album STATION TO STATION, he created another persona: The Thin White Duke.

Bowie as the Thin White Duke

Bowie as the Thin White Duke

Legendary producer Brian Eno described that time in Berlin, “It was a kind of experiment of what emotions what Pop music can cope with. Could it deal with Despair, hysteria and idiot glee as well as the things pop dealt with up until then”

albums from left: Heroes (Oct 1977), Low (Jan 1977), Station to Station (Jan 1976) http://www.davidbowie.com/sound

albums from left: Heroes (Oct 1977), Low (Jan 1977), Station to Station (Jan 1976) http://www.davidbowie.com/sound

Although LOW was not a commercial success, it was a landmark work in music which influenced countless other artists. The sound was too Avant-garde for the casual fan but resonated with musicians. Music critic David Wild explains, “It was the album that found the soul in the machine. It found something haunting and human out of electronic music.” David made 2 more LPs intended to break the pop music mold. LODGER & HEROES, title track Heroes was a hit for David. Interviews excerpted from the documentary David Bowie Sound and Vision (narrated by Jonathan Pryce).

Heroes

Rolling Stone feature agrees: “At first Bowie’s label, RCA, did not want to release LOW; however, along with Heroes from that same year, the album went on to inspire a generation — or more — of new artists, from Joy Division to Trent Reznor, and proved Bowie’s most sonically influential work.”

from left: David with Billy Idol and Bono’s David Bowie Playlist.

from left: David with Billy Idol and Bono’s David Bowie Playlist.

Bands Talking Heads, R.E.M, U2, have cited David’s body of work as an influence. Later on artists such as Billy Corgan (Smashing Pumpkins), Robert Smith (the Cure), The Foo Fighters, MOBY also credited Bowie as instrumental in shaping their work. Nirvana (THE MAN WHO SOLD THE WORLD), Jakob Dylan (HEROES) are among those who’ve remade Bowie’s work.

U2’s Bono Vox kisses his hero.

U2’s Bono Vox kisses his hero.

From U2.com: “As a teenager, Bowie was our Elvis,” Bono said. “They shared the same birthday and they both took music somewhere no one thought it could go. It was his otherworldliness that took us all away.” Edge added, “Next to the Beatles he stands as the most influential artist of all time. He truly altered the course of music history.”

Oscar winner Tilda Swinton idolized David Bowie and touted that they look alike.

Oscar winner Tilda Swinton idolized David Bowie and touted that they look alike.

Bowie was also one of the progenitors of the New Wave movement; Producing Lou Reed’s WALK ON THE WILD SIDE and then writing and performing his albums LOW and then HEROES.

from left: Billy Corgan (Smashing Pumpkins), David Bowie, Lou Reed and Robert Ian Smith (The Cure) at the tribute concert for David at the Madison Square Garden 1997.

from left: Billy Corgan (Smashing Pumpkins), David Bowie, Lou Reed and Robert Ian Smith (The Cure) at the tribute concert for David at the Madison Square Garden 1997.

In the Wikipedia definition of New Wave, “Beginning at ‘Bowie and Roxy Music’ themed nights at these clubs, the scene was spearheaded by Steve Strange of Visage, with other soon-to-be pop acts also as regular fixtures such as Boy George of Culture Club, and Spandau Ballet. Around the same time, Duran Duran emerged from a similar scene in Birmingham’s clubs. Many of the acts that arose from the New Romantic club scene adopted synthpop in their own music, though all would credit Bowie and Roxy Music as primary influences to some extent, both musically and visually.”

David jams during U2’s Rattle and Hum tour 1988.

David jams during U2’s Rattle and Hum tour 1988.

David Bowie was inducted to the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in way back in 1996. Madonna who accepted the award on his behalf shared how watching his concert at 15 changed her life. Bowie practically created the look and sound of glam rock. Not a lot of people are aware that he was one of the originators of the New Wave genre from his experimental work during his years in Berlin.

Madonna thanks Bowie for inspiring her and changing her life- Rock and Roll Hall of Fame (1996):

Germany tweeted its thanks to Bowie. They credited him as helping bring down the Berlin Wall in 1989. As former resident of Berlin he staged a concert in 1987 and started a series of events that led to the fall. His song HEROES was an anthem that united both East and West Berliners. Almost immediately after the concert then U.S. President Ronald Reagan said in a speech “tear down this wall.”

Bowie’s concert in 1989 started a series of events that contributed to the Fall of the Berlin Wall—according to an official German Government Tweet.

Bowie’s concert in 1989 started a series of events that contributed to the Fall of the Berlin Wall—according to an official German Government Tweet.

With the recent passing of David Bowie last January 10, 2016, a look back at the achievements of a true artist and icon spanning six decades, in several art forms is a must. Read Part 1Its Ok to be Different, Part 2 – Sexual Mystique, Part 3 –Rock Theater.

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http://judebsports.wordpress.com/ , http://judebfood.wordpress.com/ , http://judebphoto.wordpress.com/ , http://judebgallery.wordpress.com/ , https://judebautista.wordpress.com/

left: young Sid Vicious (of the Sex Pistols-creator of PUNK) shows off his David Bowie t-shirt. Right: Oscar winner Tilda Swinton idolized David Bowie and touted that they look alike.

left: young Sid Vicious (of the Sex Pistols-creator of PUNK) shows off his David Bowie t-shirt. Right: Oscar winner Tilda Swinton idolized David Bowie and touted that they look alike.

Bowie and Iman- “You would think that a rock star being married to a supermodel would be one of the greatest things in the world. It is.” The quote is from Conan O’Brien’s skit, but aptly describes their relationship.

Bowie and Iman- “You would think that a rock star being married to a supermodel would be one of the greatest things in the world. It is.” The quote is from Conan O’Brien’s skit, but aptly describes their relationship.

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Bowie’s Let’s Dance single was his first worldwide hit (1982).

Bowie’s Let’s Dance single was his first worldwide hit (1982).

Friend, producer and former band mate Tony Visconti.

Friend, producer and former band mate Tony Visconti.

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left: John Lennon advised David Bowie to have more control over his finances. Bowie was later devastated when John was shot in 1980.

left: John Lennon advised David Bowie to have more control over his finances. Bowie was later devastated when John was shot in 1980.

Bowie and Iman- “You would think that a rock star being married to a supermodel would be one of the greatest things in the world. It is.” The quote is from Conan O’Brien’s skit, but aptly describes their relationship.

Bowie and Iman- “You would think that a rock star being married to a supermodel would be one of the greatest things in the world. It is.” The quote is from Conan O’Brien’s skit, but aptly describes their relationship.

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Bowie as the Thin White Duke

Bowie as the Thin White Duke

With the recent passing of David Bowie last January 10, 2016, a look back at the achievements of a true artist and icon spanning six decades, in several art forms is a must. Read Part 1Its Ok to be Different, Part 2 – Sexual Mystique, Part 3 –Rock Theater.

The DAVID BOWIE IS exhibition- has 300 different pieces of costumes, objects, photos has toured the most prestigious museums from around the world.

The DAVID BOWIE IS exhibition- has 300 different pieces of costumes, objects, photos has toured the most prestigious museums from around the world.

David with first wife Angie Barnett Bowie and son Duncan Jones (1974). Angie encouraged David to wear women’s clothing to stand out as a musician.

David with first wife Angie Barnett Bowie and son Duncan Jones (1974). Angie encouraged David to wear women’s clothing to stand out as a musician.

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Trent Reznor of Nine Inch Nails described how Bowie influenced generations of musicians.

Trent Reznor of Nine Inch Nails described how Bowie influenced generations of musicians.

Oscar winner Tilda Swinton idolized David Bowie and touted that they look alike.

Oscar winner Tilda Swinton idolized David Bowie and touted that they look alike.

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Bowie as Ziggy Stardust

Bowie as Ziggy Stardust

Album BLACK TIE WHITE NOISE was inspired by wife Iman.

Album BLACK TIE WHITE NOISE was inspired by wife Iman.

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from left David, his mom Peggy Jones and Angie on their wedding day 1970

from left David, his mom Peggy Jones and Angie on their wedding day 1970

The Cure’s Robert Ian Smith chats with his idol David Bowie.

The Cure’s Robert Ian Smith chats with his idol David Bowie.

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The DAVID BOWIE IS exhibition- has 300 different pieces of costumes, objects, photos has toured the most prestigious museums from around the world.

The DAVID BOWIE IS exhibition- has 300 different pieces of costumes, objects, photos has toured the most prestigious museums from around the world.

David Bowie & Mick Jagger, were rumored to have an affair.

David Bowie & Mick Jagger, were rumored to have an affair.

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Bowie wears a Michael Fish design

Bowie wears a Michael Fish design

albums from left: Tin Machine (May 1989), Never Let Me Down (April 1987), Tonight (Sept 1984) http://www.davidbowie.com/sound

albums from left: Tin Machine (May 1989), Never Let Me Down (April 1987), Tonight (Sept 1984) http://www.davidbowie.com/sound

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David Bowie’s latest album BLACK STAR shot to no.1 even before he passed away.

David Bowie’s latest album BLACK STAR shot to no.1 even before he passed away.

HEROES album cover/contact prints by Japanese photographer Masayoshi Sukita (1977)

HEROES album cover/contact prints by Japanese photographer Masayoshi Sukita (1977)

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Oscar winner Tilda Swinton idolized David Bowie and touted that they look alike.

Oscar winner Tilda Swinton idolized David Bowie and touted that they look alike.

Bowie as Alladin Sane—indication of his state of mind A-LAD-IN-SANE

Bowie as Alladin Sane—indication of his state of mind A-LAD-IN-SANE

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Bowie as the Thin White Duke

Bowie as the Thin White Duke

Bowie and Iman- “You would think that a rock star being married to a supermodel would be one of the greatest things in the world. It is.” The quote is from Conan O’Brien’s skit, but aptly describes their relationship.

Bowie and Iman- “You would think that a rock star being married to a supermodel would be one of the greatest things in the world. It is.” The quote is from Conan O’Brien’s skit, but aptly describes their relationship.

https://www.facebook.com/pages/Text-and-Photos-by-Jude-Bautista/146371575384135

Bowie redefined what it was to be a rock star.

Bowie redefined what it was to be a rock star.

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albums from left: The Man Who Sold The World (Nov 1970), Man Of Words/Man Of Music (Nov 1969), Self titled album (1967) http://www.davidbowie.com/sound

albums from left: The Man Who Sold The World (Nov 1970), Man Of Words/Man Of Music (Nov 1969), Self titled album (1967) http://www.davidbowie.com/sound

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Bowie as the Thin White Duke

Bowie as the Thin White Duke

With the recent passing of David Bowie last January 10, 2016, a look back at the achievements of a true artist and icon spanning six decades, in several art forms is a must. Read Part 1Its Ok to be Different, Part 2 – Sexual Mystique, Part 3 –Rock Theater.

WordPress:

http://judebsports.wordpress.com/ , http://judebfood.wordpress.com/ , http://judebphoto.wordpress.com/ , http://judebgallery.wordpress.com/ , https://judebautista.wordpress.com/

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