by Claire Magnanini and Chanel Shum
You donʼt have to be a die-hard rock and roller, an enthusiast of all things galactic, or even someone who appreciates the unconventional to be profoundly impacted by the late “chameleon artist” himself: David Bowie.
Forming his first band at the young age of 15, Bowie would eventually release breakout hits such as “Space Oddity,” “Life on Mars?” “Changes,” “Starman,” “Heroes” and “Let’s Dance,” all of which undoubtedly transformed rock and roll with their bold invitations to reveal the (sometimes deeply embedded) eccentric within us, whatever it may be. Bowie did what few artists during his time and even today risk doing: he dared us to embrace all parts of ourselves.
Bowie never took on one persona; various parts of his identity emerged in the form of many characters. From Ziggy Stardust to the Thin White Duke to the Goblin King in the film The Labyrinth, in Bowie’s own words in a 1976 Rolling Stone interview, his “repulsive need to be something more than human” shattered any desire he or his fans had to conform.
Bowie’s artistry and passion for transcending society’s rules expand even beyond the music industry. Today, Bowie is acclaimed for work that was ahead of his time. In a famous 1983 encounter with MTV host Mark Goodman, Bowie turned the interview on its head by pressing MTV on why it only aired music videos by black artists between 2:30 a.m. and 6 a.m. Although this questioning was highly controversial at the time, Bowie was steadfast in his beliefs, using his courage and stardom as a platform for change.
Similarly, Bowie’s ambiguity regarding his sexual orientation and gender identification shocked, confused and even frightened many people at the time. The public often could not fathom a popular individual embracing such an open and undefined lifestyle. While today his androgynous outfits and glitzy makeup may no longer faze onlookers the way they once did, Bowie’s blatant disregard for feeding into strict gender binaries inspires many others to do the same today.
So whether the cutting-edge work of David Bowie as a musician, actor, fashion icon or an all-encompassing artist has impacted you, it’s clear that there will never be another oddity quite like the one and only Starman.