Ziggy Stardust. The Thin White Duke. Major Tom. Aladdin Sane. Jareth the Goblin King. Whichever persona you identify the most with the late David Bowie, the musician not only transformed rock music, but he also was a master of reinvention, continually transforming himself.
David Bowie shed personas and displayed a gender fluidity that was groundbreaking, just one of the many fascinating areas to explore in a research paper on his influence.
26 albums and more
David Bowie died January 10, 2016. The legendary rock music star had suffered from heart problems in recent years, last performing live in 2006. His death is attributed to an as-yet-unnamed cancer he was diagnosed with 18 months ago, which he had not made public according to Kyle Anderson’s post, “Rock legend David Bowie dies at 69,” for Entertainmentweekly.com January 11, 2016.
David Bowie first rose to prominence in 1969 with his single “Space Oddity,” which tied into the public’s fascination with space travel. But it wasn’t just rock music that fascinated Bowie, film was also a passion. In 1976, he had his first prominent film role in The Man Who Fell To Earth. Anderson wrote, “His artistic adventurousness (he has also influenced fashion and painting as well as music and film) inspired millions to open their minds, and his thirst for innovation made him a trendsetter for the duration of his career.”
David Bowie: Master of reinvention
But what makes David Bowie perhaps most compelling, and offers multiple avenues to study in a research paper, is his ability to reinvent himself through characters, both in song and on film. In “David Bowie’s Best-Loved Characters: Ziggy Stardust to Goblin King” for NBC.com January 11, 2016, Alexander Smith wrote he “was often called a rock ‘n’ roll chameleon — although rather than transforming himself to blend in, his often flamboyant personas were consistently ahead of the curve.”
In the early 1970s, David Bowie identified as gay to the British music magazine Melody Maker. Later he would say he was bisexual, and then in the 1980s he described himself to Rolling Stone as a “closet heterosexual.” The gender fluidity and sexual ambiguity that David Bowie espoused offers multiple possibilities for research paper topics, not only for how he helped change society and its views, but also for the influence he had on future artists who felt different or outside of the so-called “norm.”
Blurring artistic lines
Of course, David Bowie and his legacy and influence in rock music has been secure for some time, although his output in the last decade slowed considerably. “Hallowed Spaceboy: Over 40 Years, David Bowie Has Repeatedly Reinvented Himself, Pursuing the Idea That All Pop Is Artifice” by Graeme Thomson for the New Statesman on October 26, 2009, described him as “Falling on each emerging trend–disco, Philly soul, electronic minimalism, new wave–as it stole into view, he was a magpie with a priceless knack for pinching ideas from the cultural margins and siphoning them into the mainstream through his own work.”
David Bowie and his genius lies within his constant reinvention. While his ability to slip in and out of a persona might be what many think of first, the same morphing can also be found in the rock music he created over his 40-year career. And like a true artist, David Bowie gave the world one last gift, releasing his final album on Friday, January 8, his 69th birthday.
Do you see the influence David Bowie had on rock music today? How did his reinvention pave the way for recent artists like Katy Perry and Lady Gaga? Let us know your thoughts in the comments.