David Robert Jones was born in 1947 and was the son of a promotions officer and a waitress. He was to change his name to David Bowie to avoid being confused with Davy Jones of the Monkees! With the benefit of hindsight, we know that he needn’t have bothered.
Bowie was an artistic child who became fascinated by music’s power to inspire. He formed his first band at the age of 15 but it would have been impossible to predict the iconic status that he would go on to achieve. Let alone his influence on all aspects of society.
14 March 2017 Royal Mail will issue its tribute to one of the most musically and culturally influential people in history. Musical Giants II: David Bowie features six stamps celebrating Bowie’s albums from Hunky Dory released in 1971 to Blackstar, his final studio album. The issue will also include a variety of exciting souvenir products.
In 1968 artist Andy Warhol said “In the future everybody will be world famous for fifteen minutes.” Since then, society has become increasingly obsessed with celebrity. Social media has exploded into life and has created many unlikely stars including several young girls who do make-up tutorials and a succession of grumpy cats! Warhol’s pronouncement was prophetic indeed although, perhaps, even he could not have foreseen a world in which so many people have become famous merely for being famous.
There are innumerable instantly recognisable faces but few of today’s celebrities experience much time in the spotlight and even fewer can lay claim to any significant achievements, unless you count winning The Jump, of course! Only a mere handful of souls could be considered to have changed the world but that is exactly what David Bowie did. It was Bowie who made it possible for many of today’s more colourful and exciting stars to shine.
Bowie was a brave and eccentric enigma. Against the dour backdrop of 1970’s Britain he gave us a series of bold and androgynous alter egos. The spectacular nature of his various images was rivalled only by the brilliance of his music. At a time when homosexuality was still considered to be shameful and had not long been legalised, Bowie announced that he was gay and later spoke of his bisexuality. His gender bending personas and general non-conformity made it decidedly cool to be different.
Oh! You Pretty Young Things
Bowie loved soul and R&B and yet impressed with his unique brand of glam rock. He rocked the world but went on to bridge the gap between disco and upscale soul. He paved the way for punk and then made the flamboyance and electronic riffs of the New Romantic movement possible. He set the scene for art-pop icons like Lady Gaga and in later years produced his own brand of Jazz.
Without Bowie, Elton John may have remained a somewhat stern balladeer. The wonderfully androgynous Boy George would have been inconceivable and the amazing pipes of the gloriously camp and dazzling Adam Lambert would not be belting out Queen’s greatest hits. Because of Bowie, all of these people could be heroes and not for merely 15 minutes or just for one day but for decades.
Of course the world would have changed eventually with or without David Bowie. There would have been people who pushed the boundaries and defied convention. There would have been musicians who produced exciting new sounds. But Bowie changed everything incredibly quickly with his intoxicating mix of magical music, amazing looks and pioneering videos. Once the genie was out of the bottle there was no putting it back.
The Man Who Sold the World
Strangely, Bowie was able to weave his magic largely without upsetting the establishment or inciting any riots. He inspired an artistic revolution and one which influenced every aspect of society. The Beetles may have been “four lads who shook the world” but Bowie was one lad who caused something of an earthquake.
Ashes to Ashes
In 2013 an exhibition of Bowie artefacts organised by the Victoria and Albert museum was visited by 311,956 people making it one of the most successful events ever presented by the establishment. In 2014 Bowie became the oldest recipient of a Brit Award when he won Best British Male. 7 December 2015, Bowie made his last public appearance at the opening night of his musical Lazarus in New York. He was now suffering from liver cancer but continued to work. 8 January 2016, Bowie’s 69thbirthday, his final album Blackstar was released but just two days later Bowie lost his battle with cancer. His legacy will never die.