Like so many people around the world, we were devastated by the news that David Bowie had passed away. For some of us, we awoke to the news and thought it had to be a bad dream. For those who were awake, we thought it had to be a hoax, a bad joke that someone was spreading on the internet. Unfortunately, it was not. It’s been four days since his passing, and people are still mourning his passing. Ziggy Stardust was suppose to be immortal. He was to be a being, a life form, who was to last an eternity, but unexpectedly he’s been sent away.
We considered doing a big tribute to David Bowie, but so many angles have been covered by the media. From news programs to sports channels to radio stations to websites, you name it, they all covered the legacy left by Brixton’s favorite son. We thought maybe we would share our own personal thoughts, but reconsidered it. Instead, we reached out to a number of artists, asking them what David Bowie meant to them and his influence. The responses were overwhelming, and you can read them below while listening to a playlist of some of our favorite Bowie tracks.
Shine brightly our Starman.
Luke Rathborne (solo artist)
David Bowie’s first few albums made themselves into my life in a time when I was learning to be a musician. Hearing the way he created songs on Hunky Dory and Ziggy Stardust was very meaningful in shaping a young mind, and as I progressed through his catalogue I matured as well.
The discovery of Heroes and Low in a small-town, American high school gave me a world to escape. I can still remember doing 5-hour make-up days where I was just required to sit at a desk and I’d listen to Diamond Dogs all the way through. (I don’t know if I would listen to Diamond Dogs uninterrupted like that again. I would split it up, even a little) But it remains to say, even at his most insane level, he was an artist that could take you to a different, more mysterious place, the same sonic cavern that Roy Orbison’s otherworldy voice bounces around, or Elvis Presley, or Little Richard, or Lou Reed (whose 1972 immaculate Transformer included a glorious production collaboration from Bowie himself.)
The cross pollination of Bowie to kids in the 90s probably came from Nirvana and Kurt Cobain. I remember the cover of “Man Who Sold The World” on Nirvana Unplugged vividly in my imagination and tracking the album down, only to find it was just another strange chapter in an incredible story documented in music.
Cheers to his family and the privacy they need. And Love to David Bowie.
Richard Walters (solo artist and member of Liu Bei)
I suppose I, like so many other people, thought he was invincible, ageless and deathless. I’ve grown up with his music and his various guises, and they just felt so established as part of my life, British culture and music, that the idea of him not being around forever seemed insane.
In 2008, I was invited by K7 and Rapster Records to record a Bowie cover for a compilation called Life on Mars. The album features some very odd and unique Bowie re-makes by the likes of Au Revoir Simone and Matthew Dear. It’s a weird and patchy album to be honest. I was working with David Kosten (AKA Faultline) on my debut album at the time and we decided to tackle something together from our favorite Bowie LP Low. ”Be My Wife” felt right; the version on Low is all bluesy bombast and front, but it’s such an honest and raw lyric…it’s a complex song, just like the man himself.
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Jon Bellinger of Controller
David Bowie was always so confident in his artistic decisions – about his music, his style, even the business stuff. But it never felt forced, like he was trying to be different. He just did what he thought was right yet he was true to himself and knew that an audience would always find him somehow. That kind of trust in yourself is rare as an artist, and it’s been super inspiring to me. When you’re writing a melody or arranging a song, it’s so easy to fall into the trap of listening to what’s popular and think, “Oh shit that’s what I should be doing!” But he was always so different – even his hits were unique and strange, and he never compromised to fit into what was trending. There’s so much pressure today to follow trends as a band, and it’s a rare thing to encounter someone in today’s music world who can be their own north star. Bowie just proved again and again that if you have a good melody and a clear vision, fans will follow you anywhere.
Mia Wilson of The Bright Smoke
When I think of David Bowie’s effect on the music I make, the word that continuously comes to mind is “permission.” Images of 70s-era Bowie fascinated me through my adolescence – Ziggy Stardust and particularly The Thin White Duke burned holes in my forming brain. Are we allowed to do that?? Are men allowed to do that? Are women? Could I do that? David Bowie’s brilliant music and living art gave me permission, and it’s something I revisit often when I doubt myself or am afraid of judgment. Bowie queered everything, every norm, every expectation, every musical formula and pop trope. He paved the way for the rest of us to follow suit, he made space for a lot of us where no prior space existed. So much of my music and the music I admire is directly inspired by his life and work, and in particularly down times I revisit any video I can find of my absolute favorite David Bowie moment – his 1979 Performance with Klaus Nomi on Saturday Night Live. If he did this, we have permission to do anything.
Matt Orr of RKDN
Bowie was a glimmer of hope for the weirdos. It was so very clear he never took himself all that seriously. He just wanted to make his art the way he wanted to make it. That kind of integrity is, and always has been, hard to find in the music world. To me, David Bowie represented the ultimate middle-finger-with-a-smile-on-your-face outlook on anything and everything. And he did it while writing catchy hooks! He was an incredible songwriter with an incredible persona, and he paved so many trails for so many people.
Chris Hess of SWIMM
We watched the “Blackstar” video an hour before I heard of his passing. I remember the whole time thinking, “How does one stay in the place where they are pushing boundaries artistically for that many years? Is it a conscious decision? Or are you just born with an innate ability to never surrender to the stream of bullshit that is so available to you once you gain a level of esteem?” David Bowie, whether he was born on earth or sent from another planet, was put here to prove age and time and status quo are silly, little, human infrastructures we create. It is hard to remember that. From the Goblin King to Ziggy to making Transformer to the end of the “Blackstar” video that I watched an hour before, I was saddened by the loss. He was one of those few that make you want to be unapologetically yourself.
Alex Fitts of The Kickdrums
Bowie was a true innovator which which only comes along so often. He’s inspired practically everyone at one point or another even if they didn’t realize it. Lines like, “Time may change me. But I can’t trace time” and “You’re face to face with the man who sold the world” will be forever be considered among rock music’s most iconic.
Billy Yost of The Kickback
Like a lot of people in my age cohort, I think Bowie was first introduced to me as a Jim Henson-sponsored, long-haired witch wearing eyeliner and sporting what appeared to be an entire pot roast in the lap of his trousers. I’d expected to see Kermit the Frog. Instead, I was confronted with conflicted feelings about exactly who and what legs, as a South Dakota six-year-old boy, I was within my legal and moral rights to be attracted to. The best part of all of this is that Labyrinth-Bowie is probably only the fifth or sixth most bizarre Bowie-era, and every time you learned a little bit more about him, you just got more confused. His life was like his songs: too many damn key changes that only made sense after the fact. Or not at all.
Isley Reust of Spectacular Spectacular
David Bowie was more then just another musician in my book. He was an innovative artist who was decades ahead of his time. Being a transgender woman myself, David Bowie inspired me musically and to be my true authentic self. January 10th will forever go down as the day we lost a remarkable soul. Thank you David Bowie for your work, love and legacy you left for us to share.
David Bowie is the rare sort of artist who was always novel and exciting, yet remained a force in popular culture. He defied expectation and was rewarded for it. His influence on our music, our performance, and general mentality is invaluable. It’s truly remarkable how he was still creating exciting and objectively phenomenal music in the face of his death. Bowie is a presence that will never be forgotten.
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