David Bowie 1947-2016: The Man Who Fell to Earth
The world woke up on January 11th 2016 as a place without David Bowie. Joe Evans discusses the man, his work, and his colossal impact on our generation.
From the whimsical singer-songwriter born out of Brixton, to the revolutionary emergence of Ziggy Stardust. From the soul of the “nasty” Thin White Duke, to becoming an elder statesmen of popular music. The David Bowie we—his fans—know is as much an artefact of performance art, shrouded in his personas, as his music is a piece of audible art. He is more a phenomena than any humble musician could ever hope to become and he is just this because he isn’t just any humble musician. Put simply he transcends that, he is seemingly a man who fell to earth.
While Bowie’s twenty-seven studio albums—two of which he made with Tin Machine—will age with the grace and influence of their creator, his influence stretches far beyond this music. David Bowie was a producer, actor, a fashion icon, a sexual progressive, and a visual artist. His influence bleeds into the zeitgeist to such an extent that it is easy to overlook. His presence and the essence of his influence is everywhere. He was truly an innovator in the purest sense of the word.
From his own perspective he had no interest in the security of the crowd. “We know what can happen – you can get a job, go to work, you can follow that line of perceived security. But I think there’s a different kind of security, which is trusting to and living by a code, of almost drifting where the wind takes you. And I spent well into my 20s doing that.” This notion of living by a code unto him seems to have been the fuse for his ever changing outlook, undefined and unshackled by his contemporaries because they were ten paces behind him at every milestone.
While it would be gratuitous and impossible to write about every one of his achievements in this piece it cannot be overstated the extent to which David Bowie did change the world. Our generation, mourn him as we will and should, will never fully grasp his effect. To understand the importance of Ziggy Stardust is to have seen it, seen this man on the television—or is it a man—is it truly an alien? It is to have heard him tirading against MTV for refusing to show black artists on the television in a period when that was the accepted norm.
Look up here I’m in heaven, I’ve got scars that can’t be seen, I’ve got drama, can’t be stolen, Everybody knows me now.
Retrospectively his influence is incredible and exciting even now. However, from a contemporary standpoint, he must have been like an explosion on the cultural landscape, flattening everything that had been built and leaving nothing quite the same again.
Despite everything that I have said about Bowie’s transcendental status, on January 10th he showed the word that he was real. Behind the hair, the makeup, the suits and the guitar there was a man. David Jones, a man from Brixton with complexes, cares, defects and perfect qualities that we, his audience, could never appreciate. David Bowie has just showed us all that he is real, but that being a real human being gives you the potential to do, and change, so much.
On releasing Blackstar David Bowie turned his death, as with his life, into performance art. On Lazarus he left his own eulogy. ‘Look up here I’m in heaven, I’ve got scars that can’t be seen, I’ve got drama, can’t be stolen, Everybody knows me now.’ It is the second line that resonated most strongly with me. Perhaps this is David Bowie’s confession of humanity. While everybody knows me, I am just a man. What sets him apart isn’t that he is ‘The Man Who Fell to Earth’ rather that he set about changing the Earth onto which he was born.